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Myth or Fact: Cravings

Are food cravings myth or fact? The argument is an old one. The argument that cravings are a myth rests on the belief that it is just a matter of a little will power, and that your giving into food cravings shows weakness that can be easily corrected. On the other side is the argument that cravings are real. Whether cravings are triggered by pregnancy, stress, or just feeling run down and running on empty, the brain may be sending out signals that the body needs certain nutrients.

Sodium Cravings

Pregnant women may crave salty chips and pickles, which are high in sodium, because of increased blood volume and not enough sodium to take up the slack. Anyone who is not pregnant but is sodium deficient might get a pickle or salty food craving too. A persistent craving for salty foods, however, may signal a glandular problem. If you have a persistent salty food cravings you should consult a doctor to see if there is some kind of imbalance that needs attention.

Chocolate on Overdrive

When you crave a chocolate bar, your body may actually be crying out for more magnesium, which is a component of chocolate. Feeling weary after a hard day's work or stressed out over people who aggravated you may trigger a craving for a chocolate fix. Even if you aren't crazy about chocolate you might crave sugary foods during pregnancy, your PMS cycle, or any other times when you're feeling low. There are ways to fight these cravings. You can choose substitutes for the craving that tempts you the most.

Food Substitutes

Nutritionists have two kinds of advice about food cravings. One camp essentially says, "Go with the flow. Want the chocolate bar? Buy it. Want the bag of pretzels? No problem." Their caveat is to eat just a small portion of whatever you crave. The theory is that once your body is satisfied, your craving will disappear. Opposing camps say the opposite. They think that it's more difficult to stop after one small bag of cookies or pretzels. Their advice is to substitute other foods for sweet and salty junk foods, so that you will feel satisfied and will take in far fewer calories.

If you're craving chocolate, try eating spinach, which has the magnesium that your body may be craving. Wanting a snack that is very sweet? Eat a sweet potato or a piece of fruit, and the craving is likely to subside.

Hungering for something salty? Drink plenty of fluids and make sure that you eat three balanced meals a day. Sodium occurs naturally in many foods, so you don't need to worry, in normal conditions, that you are not getting enough sodium. Assuming that you do not have an underlying medical condition, the craving might occur because you are simply used to chips and other snacks, and you just need to reprogram your diet. Nutritionists say that salty cravings, assuming they are mere habit, do go away on their own when you put a stop to frequent snacking on salty foods.  

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