We’ve all been there: that moment when you just need to have a burger (or a milkshake or a bag of potato chips), and nothing else on Earth will do. But why exactly do we have food cravings? And what do they mean?
It’s a popular belief that cravings are the result of nutritional shortfalls. “There is very little science-based evidence on food cravings linked to nutritional deficiencies,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of The Plant-Powered Life. “And if food cravings were related to something you need, then wouldn’t you be craving kale or apples, not ice cream and French fries? Instead, people tend to crave foods that are rich in fats, carbs, and sugar.” (Especially sugar, according to a new study.)
This doesn’t mean that food cravings aren’t real. It’s just that your hankering for pizza is probably linked to emotional needs—seeking a comfort food that releases feel-good chemicals in the brain during a time of stress, for example—not nutritional ones.
Other studies show that cravings can crop up simply because you’re on a restrictive or monotonous diet and want what you can’t have.
That said, there are some cravings that really do signal health problems. Here are 5 cravings to look out for.
Water Could be: Diabetesn Excessive thirst is an early symptom of diabetes—but this isn’t just the craving for water that hits when you finish a workout. This is far more pronounced thirst that’s also typically coupled with excessive urination. If you have diabetes, sugar builds up in the blood, and your kidneys have to work extra hard to filter and absorb that sugar. But sometimes they can’t keep up, so the extra sweet stuff is diverted into the urine. This means frequent pee breaks, which in turn leave you thirsty for more water. For more