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Does craving a food mean I'm missing something?

by (1215)
Updated about 5 hours ago
Created September 12, 2010 at 3:26 PM

I've done a few searches on this topic but didn't quite find the answer I was looking for.

First of all, I've been paleo/primal for 3 months now. The reason being that I had extreme highs and lows in energy from relying on carbs (bread, potato, pasta). I have no intention of losing weight and have had no other health issues that I wanted to fix.

Before, I made the change in my diet I hardly ever ate the really bad stuff, chocolate bars, sweets or fast food. I never really liked the taste of it. But there's one thing that I liked and still crave which is crisps / potato chips. At the moment I'm constantly wanting to eat some.

I don't miss bread, rice, pasta or normal potatoes (I eat sweet potatoes), I cut them all out in one fell swoop. But I'm always thinking about crisps / potato chips, specifically the salty taste.

Does this mean I need salt or something else? Or is it just a learned behaviour that I have to phase out?

EDIT:

I also forgot to mention that my relation with food is that I've never had any kind of cravings for food or drink and seem to not get addicted to certain foods like other people do. For example I've occasionally tried but never continued with coffee, tea, alcohol, sugary sweets and chocolate.

That's why I've always tended to trust this impulse because it is very uncharacteristic of myself to have an intense need for something specific.

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18671 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

Exactly. That's why I think it would be very hard to tell a legitimate craving for an illegitimate one. I.e. one that is to your benefit or not.

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115 · April 28, 2011 at 9:43 PM

Mmmmm, caffeine...

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4163 · September 22, 2010 at 9:40 PM

Then why isn't my falafel craving sated by calf liver? ;P

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19220 · September 22, 2010 at 8:52 PM

Would you still crave salt if you had never eaten any salt?

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19220 · September 21, 2010 at 8:34 PM

"Sugar is vital to body functioning at the cellular level and we have a sugar receptor on our tongue and naturally crave sugar. I can't imagine mother nature would put a sugar receptor on our tongue and a craving for this natural resource if she did not wish us to seek out sugar. Even primitive tribes seek and trade for honey." Sorry I couldn't resist editing that bit.

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19220 · September 21, 2010 at 8:29 PM

"Sugar is vital to body functioning at the cellular level and we have a sugar receptor on our tongue and naturally crave sugar. I can't imagine mother nature would put a sugar receptor on our tongue and a craving for this natural resource if she did not wish us to seek out sugar. Even primitive tribes seek and trade for sugar (honey)." Sorry I couldn't resist.

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18671 · September 13, 2010 at 4:05 PM

Sure, there are gems to be found in the most unlikely places, and the site was relevant to the discussion. I'm just pointing out that the statements on it aren't particularly credible. It *does* show that thinking about these ideas is not new, and it gives some worthy hypotheses to test.

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2520 · September 13, 2010 at 2:35 AM

You could always make some kale chips - http://girlgoneprimal.blogspot.com/2009/11/chicken-chips.html

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20787 · September 13, 2010 at 12:21 AM

Or drink some blood! (Hmm, can't wait for the next new episode of True Blood..)

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20787 · September 13, 2010 at 12:20 AM

Yes, these kinds of things make me question the assumption that salt intake is just a bad habit. Also, you all might want to start researching the research behind the concept that salt is bad for you as it is rather flimsy at best. Gary Taubes researched and did a paper on it and he came to feel that salt intake is not a problem for most of the population.

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20787 · September 13, 2010 at 12:17 AM

I think the list is full of guesses, some of them more likely to be true than others. I'd take it with a grain of salt (scuz the pun..)

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20787 · September 13, 2010 at 12:15 AM

Both an addiction and a lack of something are both a situation of dependency. It's just that in some cases, the addiction is creating the need and in other cases, there is no cure for the 'addiction' because it is a basic need of the body that cannot be substituted out. For instance, need for food could be thought of as an 'addiction' that can't be cured. Need for cocaine is an addiction that can be basically cured, albeit with great difficulty. But the body only knows something is unbalanced and seeks the easiest fastest route to balance, which is either more food or more cocaine.

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1215 · September 12, 2010 at 7:05 PM

Hey Eva, Like you mention I think I picked up the dangers of salt from the media as a child. It's been many years since I put salt on my food but once in a while I would eat some crisp / chips. But I never felt guilty about it because I imagined that there was a reason for feeling like I needed it.

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1215 · September 12, 2010 at 6:58 PM

I guess I could use some on my food. Although I haven't done that since I was a kid.

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1215 · September 12, 2010 at 6:56 PM

Hey Adam, There is a whole theory about a coastal origin of our species and how we need iodine in our diet: http://efaeducation.nih.gov/sig/Evolution_2.pdf Maybe we need salt as well? I've had the same experience where I never used to add salt to my food but since going paleo I've found myself looking over at my housemate's salt-shaker.

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4124 · September 12, 2010 at 6:11 PM

Ambimorph, I agree, there is something "iffy" there. I found this list and thought it would be a good place to start. I have found that even website with, what is to me, a questionable basis, can sometimes have useful bits of information, even if I find the rest of the website "iffy". If I had a better reference, I would post it. The list itself doesn't look "quacky" to me, even if it doesn't give biochemical information. I have yet to find anything else on this, and it's an interesting topic. Friends have told me that magnesium and saturated fats helped "cure" their choc. cravings.

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10768 · September 12, 2010 at 5:59 PM

Or some more electrolytes?

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18671 · September 12, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Okay, that's a start, but the book looks to be full of bizarre theories. And how do we know, for example, how much magnesium we really need? Do the cravings for chocolate subside if we eat nuts? I'm somewhat skeptical.

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1973 · September 12, 2010 at 5:14 PM

So have you tried eating more salt?

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20787 · September 12, 2010 at 5:29 PM

I think a body craves things it wants for some reason. SOmetimes, the want is for health purposes and sometimes the want is due to addiction, like in the case of most caffeine consumption and carb consumption (although I think there are exceptions to both of these).

In the case of a craving for chips but not other carbs or other fats, salt is immediately what I think of. Of course, chips have the ability to provide high levels of salt, fat, and carbs all at once, so there are other options. HOwever, I would assume you are eating good levels of fat on lowcarb and are over any carb addiction by now. Unless you are badly glycogen depleted due to heavy exercise or still not fat adapted, you probably don't really need carbs. THerefore, I think salt is a likely culprit.

Personally, I find myself often at odds with some of the paleo advice to avoid all added salt. Salt is vital to body functioning at the cellular level and we have a salt receptor on our tongue and naturally crave salt. I can't imagine mother nature would put a salt receptor on our tongue and a craving for this natural resource if she did not wish us to seek out salt. Even primitive tribes seek and trade for salt. Consumption of blood is a good source of electrolytes but few of us drink blood anymore. Genetic tendency to excrete salt in sweat varies wildly between individuals. Those who excrete a lot of electrolytes in sweat are at increased risk of having serious bad side effects in hot weather if they don't replace those electrolytes quickly. It may be that those populations that had plenty of chlorides in their diet naturally did not need to conserve electrolyte excretion and so their bodies are rather wasteful of this resource compared to populations that did not have such in their diet.

Certainly, I have heard of people who physically do not do well on a lot of salt but I have also heard of many who have cramps and other illness if they don't consume adequate salt and electrolytes. In fact, epidimiological studies correlate a low salt diet with increased likelihood of mortality.

On a personal level, I find that my taste for salt varies from day to day. Some days, I feel like I want salt on my meat and on those days, I add it and it tastes good. Other days, I do not have a taste for salt and so I lay off on it. Studies show that 97% of the population with healthy organ function have no significant deleterious effects from salt consumption and that salt does not contribute much to blood pressure levels in most of the population. Personally, I think salt phobia in the media is overblown and they would be better off worrying about other more dangerous food items like wheat and high fructose corn syrup.

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115 · April 28, 2011 at 9:43 PM

Mmmmm, caffeine...

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19220 · September 22, 2010 at 8:52 PM

Would you still crave salt if you had never eaten any salt?

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19220 · September 21, 2010 at 8:34 PM

"Sugar is vital to body functioning at the cellular level and we have a sugar receptor on our tongue and naturally crave sugar. I can't imagine mother nature would put a sugar receptor on our tongue and a craving for this natural resource if she did not wish us to seek out sugar. Even primitive tribes seek and trade for honey." Sorry I couldn't resist editing that bit.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb
19220 · September 21, 2010 at 8:29 PM

"Sugar is vital to body functioning at the cellular level and we have a sugar receptor on our tongue and naturally crave sugar. I can't imagine mother nature would put a sugar receptor on our tongue and a craving for this natural resource if she did not wish us to seek out sugar. Even primitive tribes seek and trade for sugar (honey)." Sorry I couldn't resist.

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1215 · September 12, 2010 at 7:05 PM

Hey Eva, Like you mention I think I picked up the dangers of salt from the media as a child. It's been many years since I put salt on my food but once in a while I would eat some crisp / chips. But I never felt guilty about it because I imagined that there was a reason for feeling like I needed it.

best answer

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10768 · September 12, 2010 at 6:11 PM

When I was still including processed foods in my diet, i never felt the need to salt my food.. Now that I've gone to all primal and mostly unprocessed food, I put a bit of salt on my food about every 3rd day, or maybe a bit in my cooking.

I'm only really doing this when i crave salt, and that NEVER used to happen.

I'm still recalibrating what craving mean some 2 years after taking up IF, and some 5 months into primal paleo eating

I have a general opinion that we will never lose a minor need for the representative components of the sea, like salt and iodide, no matter how long our ancestors have bee out ot the original primal ocean.

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20787 · September 13, 2010 at 12:20 AM

Yes, these kinds of things make me question the assumption that salt intake is just a bad habit. Also, you all might want to start researching the research behind the concept that salt is bad for you as it is rather flimsy at best. Gary Taubes researched and did a paper on it and he came to feel that salt intake is not a problem for most of the population.

154bf5c84f7bd9f52b361b45d05dbc3a
1215 · September 12, 2010 at 6:56 PM

Hey Adam, There is a whole theory about a coastal origin of our species and how we need iodine in our diet: http://efaeducation.nih.gov/sig/Evolution_2.pdf Maybe we need salt as well? I've had the same experience where I never used to add salt to my food but since going paleo I've found myself looking over at my housemate's salt-shaker.

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56596 · September 21, 2010 at 1:52 PM

I have three unusual cravings: peanut butter, chickpeas, and sour buckwheat. When I get them I assume it's time to eat some high-mineral high-protein foods like liver.

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4163 · September 22, 2010 at 9:40 PM

Then why isn't my falafel craving sated by calf liver? ;P

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4124 · September 12, 2010 at 5:11 PM

Here is a list, compiled by Doug Setter, that might be of some use. The author lists a craving, and then states what the body actually needs.

Editing to add, (thank you Ambimorph for prompting the edit): This is all I have found on the web related to cravings and what the body actually needs. I am not recommending the rest of the site, I just thought this list pointed to some things which might be useful, incomplete as the list is.

Food Cravings and what they mean:

http://www.2ndwindbodyscience.com/what%20your%20food.php

I don't know what copyright laws allow for excerpts. Here is what he says about cravings for salty foods:

Craving for: Salty foods.
Body needs: Chloride.
Foods that contain this: Raw goat milk, fish, unrefined sea salt.

And another example:

Craving for: Chocolate.
What the body needs: Magnesium.
Foods that contain this: Raw nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits.

Here are the references he gives:

1.Lectures, Cheryl M. Deroin, NMD, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Spring 2003 (healthy food recommendations)

2.Benard Jenson, PhD, The Chemistry of Man B. Jensen Publisher, 1983 (deficiencies linked to specific cravings and some food recommendations)

I don't know anything about Mr. Setter or these references, but the idea that cravings signal a need for something real makes sense to me.

Hope this is of some help.

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18671 · September 13, 2010 at 4:05 PM

Sure, there are gems to be found in the most unlikely places, and the site was relevant to the discussion. I'm just pointing out that the statements on it aren't particularly credible. It *does* show that thinking about these ideas is not new, and it gives some worthy hypotheses to test.

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20787 · September 13, 2010 at 12:17 AM

I think the list is full of guesses, some of them more likely to be true than others. I'd take it with a grain of salt (scuz the pun..)

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4124 · September 12, 2010 at 6:11 PM

Ambimorph, I agree, there is something "iffy" there. I found this list and thought it would be a good place to start. I have found that even website with, what is to me, a questionable basis, can sometimes have useful bits of information, even if I find the rest of the website "iffy". If I had a better reference, I would post it. The list itself doesn't look "quacky" to me, even if it doesn't give biochemical information. I have yet to find anything else on this, and it's an interesting topic. Friends have told me that magnesium and saturated fats helped "cure" their choc. cravings.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1
18671 · September 12, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Okay, that's a start, but the book looks to be full of bizarre theories. And how do we know, for example, how much magnesium we really need? Do the cravings for chocolate subside if we eat nuts? I'm somewhat skeptical.

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18671 · September 12, 2010 at 4:57 PM

I think the problem with this idea is one that many theories have in common: it is both easy to overstate to the point of obvious falsehood, and to understate to the point of trivial truth.

Certainly we have addictions that lead us to crave things our bodies miss, but don't benefit from in the long-term sense. These can be true addictions, or more the psychological discomfort of breaking a habit. We are also familiar with mechanisms like the blood sugar roller coaster, in which a high dose of sugar ultimately results in low blood sugar, leading to cravings for another high dose of sugar.

On the other hand, one could hardly argue against the reality of a visceral sense of hunger or thirst, and it seems likely that if we can crave a specific substance when addicted, we should also be able to feel a need for a specific nutrient when it is good for us.

I know of no studies to substantiate this though, and my only guide is to guess whether it is plausible to be missing something, or to try it and see how we feel. Of course, if we feel better, that still doesn't mean we need it, as that would happen in the cases above, too. It may be a case of short-term relief, long-term harm. It's a really tough question!

In your specific example, maybe you could try making some home fries, and at least you would avoid industrial oils.

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18671 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

Exactly. That's why I think it would be very hard to tell a legitimate craving for an illegitimate one. I.e. one that is to your benefit or not.

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20787 · September 13, 2010 at 12:15 AM

Both an addiction and a lack of something are both a situation of dependency. It's just that in some cases, the addiction is creating the need and in other cases, there is no cure for the 'addiction' because it is a basic need of the body that cannot be substituted out. For instance, need for food could be thought of as an 'addiction' that can't be cured. Need for cocaine is an addiction that can be basically cured, albeit with great difficulty. But the body only knows something is unbalanced and seeks the easiest fastest route to balance, which is either more food or more cocaine.

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2517 · September 12, 2010 at 3:57 PM

I recently posted about this on my website:

http://www.modprimal.info/2010/07/constant-craving/

I don't know if it's a physical (need for salt) issue so much as I do believe it's somewhat in the mind -- a learned impulse, a desire for "comfort food"?

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78407 · February 19, 2012 at 9:09 AM

Please delete my post. Post is in the wrong thread.

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5768 · April 28, 2011 at 6:34 PM

I think you can get to a point and determine what your bodies needs are. For instance, last week I took a MovNat Seminar and we took a break for lunch and I had a ribeye and small yam. A couple hours later when the seminar was over, I had some homemade beef jerky and a larabar in the car, just in case. I was craving the carbs and almost was repulsed by the beef jerky (which is very odd for me). So I dove into the larabar and was completely satisfied until dinner.

The tricky part is determining why your body is craving something. More than not, carb cravings are out of boredom for me, but I am able to understand when I really need them.

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0 · April 28, 2011 at 6:25 PM

Just as pregnant women often crave the bizarre and unusual, so do the rest of us from time to time. The issue is to know internally whether it is just a passing phenomenon or an addiction. Even if it isn't clear, just because something isn't "Paleo" per se, shouldn't disqualify it from your diet. I don't think that eating anything at any given time will upset your apple cart. There's nothing like a few good chips every now and then.

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2374 · September 22, 2010 at 8:36 PM

Salt cravings can be a sign of (among other things) messed-up adrenal function. I'd feed it (sensibly) without hesitation, and seek medical advice if it continues.

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