Craving high-carb junk food isn’t just a matter of giving into instant gratification. It could be a sign that your body’s trying to tell you something.
While some people blame a sweet tooth for their urge to eat carbs and sugar, others suggest that nutritional deficiencies of magnesium, zinc, chromium, amino acids (tryptophan), or vitamins (vitamin D especially), may actually be the culprit.
The idea behind this is that when you are deficient in these nutrients, your body cannot use carbs effectively as an energy source so it tries to compensate by consuming more carbohydrates. This theory, however, needs more scientific evidence to back it up.
Do nutritional deficiencies really cause cravings?
Although you do need to consume various micronutrients in optimum amounts, being deficient in them does not necessarily mean you will crave carbohydrates. And many people with a micronutrient deficiency have actually reported that they had a reduced appetite, which goes against this hypothesis of carb cravings.
Scientists suggest that carb cravings occur because of the effect that carbs (especially sugars) have on your brain. Consuming sugary foods increases the levels of the “feel-good” hormone (serotonin), making you correlate feeling good with having carbs. So eating carbs can actually make you want more. This is further supported by the fact that people tend to consume more carbs when they are stressed, anxious, or depressed.
What should be your daily carb intake?
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (the other two being protein and fats) that are a crucial part of a healthy diet. They provide your body with its main fuel (glucose), used to release the energy needed to function and move properly. One gram of carbohydrate releases four kilocalories of energy.
The amount of carbohydrates you need to consume depends on various factors, such as your age, general health, underlying health conditions, physical activity, and gender. But it’s not just the quantity that matters, but also the quality of carbs you’re consuming.
The USDA recommends the healthy plate approach. According to this, you must fill:
- 1/2 of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- ¼ of your plate with whole grains.
- ¼ of your plate with protein (beans, dairy, fish, meat, or poultry).
How can I control carb cravings?
You can control carb cravings by:
- Adding enough protein and fiber to your diet, as it keeps you feeling full for longer.
- Including moderate amounts of healthy fats, such as nuts and dairy in your diet.
- Choosing complex carb sources, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, instead of processed carbs, such as chips, fries, and pastries.
- Staying hydrated with water and non-sugary beverages. Not drinking enough water can make you hungrier and crave more food, including carbs.
- Managing stress through activities such as meditation, music, yoga, or other healthy hobbies.
- Staying active. Exercise helps release serotonin in your body as well, and helps to maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that promote satiety.
- Practicing moderation. Cutting down carbs completely from your diet may create a rebound craving for more carbs. So follow a balanced diet while keeping track of your carb intake according to your body’s needs.
- Getting enough sleep. Lack of rest can worsen carb cravings.
If you can’t seem to control your carb cravings, talk to your doctor to rule out any underlying health conditions.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Ghojehvand A. The Link Between Food Cravings and Nutrient Deficiencies. Vitamin Buddy. https://www.vitaminbuddy.co.uk/blog/link-food-cravings-nutrient-deficiencies/
Corsica JA, Spring BJ. Carbohydrate craving: a double-blind, placebo-controlled test of the self-medication hypothesis. Eat Behav. 2008;9(4):447-454. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2632958/
Ahmed SH, Guillem K, Vandaele Y. Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. July 2013;16(4):434-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23719144/
Top What Deficiency Causes Carb Cravings? Related Articles
Diet and Nutrition: Low-Carb FruitsYes, fruit has carbs. It also provides vitamins your body needs. Don’t skip it: Learn how to make every carb count.
Stress-Reducing FoodsWhile there are many ways to cope with stress, one strategy is to eat stress-fighting foods. Find out which foods to eat as part of a stress management diet.
Iron DeficiencyIron is a mineral our bodies need. Iron deficiency is a condition resulting from not enough iron in the body. It is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause in the US. Iron deficiency is caused due to increased iron deficiency from diseases, nutritional deficiency, or blood loss and the body's inability to intake or absorb iron. Children, teen girls, pregnant women, and babies are at most risk for developing iron deficiency. Symptoms of iron deficiency include feeling weak and tired, decreased work or school performance, slow social development, difficulty maintaining body temperature, decreased immune function, and an inflamed tongue. Blood tests can confirm an iron deficiency in an individual. Treatment depends on the cause of the deficiency. Proper diet that includes recommended daily allowances of iron may prevent some cases of iron deficiency.
Vitamin D SlideshowWhat does vitamin D do? Learn about vitamin D benefits and discover foods that are high in vitamin D. Explore vitamin D deficiency symptoms and the safest ways to get enough vitamin D.
Sugar AddictionLearn about sugar addiction to see why we often crave sweets and binge on carbs. Learn how sugar affects the brain and get tips to combat your sweet tooth so you can lose weight.
What Are the Symptoms and Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency?What is vitamin D deficiency? Learn the signs of vitamin D deficiency and what foods you can eat to help prevent vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms and TreatmentVitamin D deficiency has been linked with rickets, cancer, cardiovascular disease, severe asthma in children and cognitive impairment in older adults. Causes include not ingesting enough of the vitamin over time, having limited exposure to sunlight, having dark skin, and obesity. Symptoms include bone pain and muscle weakness. Treatment for vitamin D deficiency involves obtaining more vitamin D through supplements, diet, or exposure to sunlight.
What Are the Signs of Phosphorus Deficiency?Phosphorus is an essential mineral that the body needs, to perform a wide range of essential functions. Phosphorus is a mineral that combines with other substances to form phosphate compounds. Besides calcium, phosphorus is the most abundantly present mineral in the body.