APR 30, 2016 10:29 AM PDT

Why Do We Have Food Cravings?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Food cravings are universal - we've all experience the unrelenting desire for some savory or sweet foods at some point in our lives. Perhaps you're working a late night shift and can't shake the urge for some miso ramen. Or perhaps you see a commercial for cheesy fries and milkshake and can't think about anything else besides washing down the fries with the milkshake. And maybe just reading these descriptions make you feel an urge to visit a Dairy Queen.

While we all get food cravings, the food type and triggers behind these urges vary considerably. One thing is for certain, however, food cravings are different than hunger cravings - people report craving certain foods even after they've had a full meal. And cravings don't necessarily indicate your body's lack of certain nutrients -wanting a chocolate cupcake doesn't mean your body was in need of magnesium (you just really wanted a chocolate cupcake).

Cravings are most likely tied more to your psychological processes, such as stress and anxiety. It can also be because of specific happy memories associated with eating certain foods, which explain why not all cravings are for sugar or salt. A boring, repetitive, or restrictive diet could also trigger cravings for certain foods.

Overall, cravings are natural, even in well-balanced diets. And it's also natural and healthy to indulge into these cravings in moderation.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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