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Understanding Cravings: Why People Crave Fatty Foods

Apr 23, 2010

Cravings for fatty foods are common. Fats are an essential part of a healthy diet, since your body needs certain fats to function. Cravings for fatty or oily foods may therefore be linked to nutritional deficiency. However, fatty food cravings may also be linked to stress and emotional eating.

Why Your Body Needs Fat

Healthy fats and oils, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are essential to human nutrition. Fats and oils provide a source of fat soluble vitamins, like vitamins A, E and K. Fats give you energy, they're needed in the production of hormones like prostaglandins, and they literally hold your body together by strengthening cell membranes and the protecting myelin sheaths that surround your nerve endings. 

Fat Cravings May Be Healthy

Some people crave fats and oily foods because their diets are deficient in essential fatty acids. Others may be experiencing a deficiency in fat soluble vitamins, especially vitamins E, D, K and A. 

Depending on your metabolism, fat cravings may simply be an attempt for your body to get the nutrition it needs for sustained energy. Some people have fast metabolisms that burn up calories rapidly; these are the people who eat and eat and still remain thin. Fats and oils contain the high calorie levels that these people need to feel satisfied. Metabolism can vary from day to day or even at different times throughout the day, so it's not unusual for some people to have differing calorie requirements at differing times.

Fats Make Your Food Taste Better

Many people crave fatty foods because they taste good and have a pleasing texture and aroma. Your body is evolutionarily hardwired to prefer fatty, high calorie foods, because they'll give you more energy for a longer period of time. Butter, oil, lard and margarine are frequently used to add flavor to a variety of foods, like popcorn and salads.

Fatty Foods May Soothe Your Nerves

Your body takes longer to burn the calories found in fatty foods, which can stabilize blood sugar levels to soothe feelings of anxiety and moodiness. Many fatty foods also contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Your brain uses tryptophan to produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. Serotonin also helps to reduce feelings of anxiety.

Cravings for Fatty Foods May Have Psychological Roots

Many people choose fatty foods as comfort foods when bored, stressed or upset. Comfort eaters may reach for familiar fatty foods or foods that remind them of better times. Eating fatty foods may become a distraction from your problems.

Fatty food cravings may be largely a matter of habit. People often experience food cravings because they're accustomed to eating certain types of food in certain situations or in response to certain emotional cues. If you have the habit of eating fatty foods, then when you get hungry you'll start to crave fatty foods out of habit.

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