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Solve your cravings

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Can’t shake your daily chocolate fix? Find out what your body really needs and beat those snack attacks for good.

Craving chocolate?

We hate to burst your bubble; there is no such thing as chocolate deficiency! Craving chocolate could be a sign of low magnesium levels, because raw cacao is a good source of this vital mineral. “Magnesium is important for a healthy menstrual cycle, and your body uses it to relax your muscles after exercise” says Philip Weeks, natural medicine expert and author of Make Yourself Better (Singing Dragon Books $15). In the UK, 70 per cent of women are magnesium deficient. It’s also essential for healthy bones as it helps the absorption of calcium. Your body needs a calcium/ magnesium ratio of 2:1, but dairy foods contain a ratio of 12:1, leaving you susceptible to magnesium deficiency.

Description: Craving chocolate

Craving chocolate

If you’re getting enough calcium, but at risk of osteoporosis, try supplementing your diet with magnesium, says Weeks.

Diet solution

Magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, spinach, Swiss chard, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds.

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Craving bread?

Description: Craving bread

Craving bread

Wheat-based foods are usually a good source of quick-release carbohydrates. “Many people crave bread because it raises blood sugar levels quickly”, says Weeks. This means it offers a short-term energy fix. “Ironically, people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sometimes crave wheat-based foods, including bread, even though they’re sensitive to them,” says Weeks. The protein gliadin, found in wheat, stimulates your appetite, leaving you hungry for more carb-heavy foods. The trick is to abstain and opt for blood sugar balancing foods, such as protein and essential fats.

“Year ago, soil was more nutrient-rich, so wheat contained a lot of selenium, an antioxidant mineral,” says Weeks. “A craving for bread could mean your body needs more selenium”

Diet solution

To stabilize your blood sugar and prevent sugar lulls, eat high-protein foods such as chicken, fish, nuts and beans. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium.

Craving salt?

Description: Craving salt

Craving salt

Salt is vital for every cell in your body. It’s an electrolyte that helps transport nutrients in and out of your cells. Together, water and salt regulate the metabolic functions of your body, but they must be in balance. During exercise your body loses salt through sweat, so you might crave it after a workout, says Weeks. Instead of sports drinks, try drinking coconut water, which is full of minerals and electrolytes. “Sudden urges for salt could mean you’re dehydrated.” Says Weeks. Salt deficiency is uncommon as it’s so plentiful in our diets, but dehydration affects almost 90 per cent of the population.

“Salt contains important minerals, such as iodine, which most diets are deficient in,” says Weeks. “Iodine is important for healthy thyroid function, which produces hormones that maintain the brain and nervous system.

Diet solution

Proper hydration is the solution to most salt cravings. Use mineral-dense rock or sea salt instead of table salt. Iodine-rich foods include cheese, yoghurt and eggs.

Craving alcohol?

Description: Craving alcohol

Craving alcohol

“Just like recreational drugs, alcohol is an addictive substance”, says nutritionist Rachel Henderson of The Food Fairies (foodfairynutrition.com). Alcohol also leaches nutrients from your body, such as vitamin C and thiamin (vitamin B1), which is essential for energy. “The amino acid glutamine is needed by the brain to reduce cravings, especially for alcohol,” says Henderson. Your body draws on muscle glutamine stores in times of stress to bolster the immune system, so make sure you eat enough meat and legumes, which are high in this essential amino acid.

If the cravings is severe you could try supplementing your diet with L-Glutamine ($... for 50 tabs; hollandandbarrett.com).

Diet solution

Poultry, red meat, fish, nuts and legumes. Also take a multi-vitamin to replace lost vitamins.

Craving coffee?

Description: Craving coffee

Craving coffee

Do you get irritable, forgetful or tired without your morning cup of caffeine? An underlying iron or vitamin B12 deficiency could be the reason for these symptoms. “It’s a paradox,” says Henderson. “Tea and coffee actually inhibit iron absorption” Eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C, such as lemon juice, to ensure you’re absorbing the iron, says Henderson.

Caffeine is the addictive stimulant in coffee, because it raises blood sugar levels to give you an instant energy boots. It stimulates the adrenal glands to excrete the hormone adrenaline. “Exercising in the morning improves energy levels and eating a complex carbohydrate snack will give you a steady release of energy,” says Weeks.

Diet solution

Foods rich in vitamin B12 are seafood, red meat, fortified breakfast cereals and oily fish. Beetroot and spinach with a squeeze of lemon juice are good sources of iron.

Craving crisps?

Description: Craving crisps

Craving crisps

Women crave high-fat and sweet foods more than men, especially when following a low-fat diet, says Henderson. “Your body tells you that you need fat, but it’s important to eat the right ones.” says Henderson. Healthy fats and oils, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are essential for protecting your cells and giving you energy.

There’s also a link between calcium deficiency and cravings for fatty food. A diet high in saturated and trans-fats is known to raise cholesterol levels, but some saturated fat is needed in your diet as it helps the absorption of vitamin D and the transportation of calcium to your bones.

Diet solution

Oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and anchovies, avocados, nuts and seeds, will give you essential fats. For calcium, eat dark leafy greens, such as broccoli and kale, legumes, cheese (avoid low-fat options) and sesame seeds.

Craving ice?

Description: Craving ice

Craving ice

If you have sensitive teeth you’re unlikely to want it, but a craving for ice is not that uncommon, particularly for pregnant women. “This craving can be a sign of iron deficiency, also known as anaemia,” say Weeks. if you also recognize symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, irritability, dizziness, lightheadedness, poor concentration, restless legs, increased infections or chapped lips, it’s worth talking to your GP. You may need a blood test to check your haemoglobin levels. If you’re not getting enough iron, your body can’t make enough haemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your tissues, and organs, resulting in symptoms of anaemia.

Enhance your diet with iron-rich foods and only take an iron supplement under a doctor’s supervision.

Diet solution

Healthy sources of iron and lean red meat, green leafy vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, nettles and dried fruits.  

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