I am sure many of you could tell me right now which foods you crave the most. I know my cravings have been very strong since becoming a vegetarian 3 years ago. Cravings are a great way for the body to tell the mind what it is lacking. Ongoing cravings for certain foods may indicate a deficiency in vitamins and minerals and our job is to find the root cause of these cravings so we can improve our health and prevent illness.
Over the last year I have been craving red radishes. I have indulged in this craving and probably consumed 10-15 whole radishes a day. First I thought I just craved the crunch but then when my mouth started to water every time I thought about radishes I started to investigate why this unusual craving was becoming a significant part of my day. Along with the craving, I also started to encounter shortness of breath, chest pain and fatigue which brought me to my doctor. My lab results confirmed a diagnosis of Anemia.
When you are anemic there isn’t enough iron in your body to create the necessary amount of hemoglobin. Red blood cells contain Hemoglobin which transports oxygen throughout your body. When your body doesn’t have enough iron to create hemoglobin, your red blood cell count will drop which makes it more difficult for your tissues to get the oxygen they need, leading to fatigue and shortness of breath.
It turns out my craving for radishes was my body telling me that I was deficient in crucial vitamins and minerals. Radishes are a power house for good stuff including folate, fiber, riboflavin, potassium, copper, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, calcium and iron. My experience sparked an interest in learning about which cravings indicate low levels of critical vitamins and minerals and how to increase these with the right foods and supplements.
Here are 6 critical vitamins and minerals that when low, may trigger cravings.
- Insatiable sugar and salt cravings, muscle cramps, confusion, depression, tingling in lips, fingers, and feet.
- Eat leafy greens, broccoli, nuts, seafood (oysters, salmon, sardines), figs, beans, blackstrap molasses, almonds, almond milk, and sesame seeds, Bok Choy, oranges, seaweed, and tofu.
- Craving meat, raw potatoes, radishes, carrots, other root vegetables, or Pica (unusual cravings for non foods like clay, dirt, ice, chalk, laundry starch), fatigue, shortness of breath.
- Eat iron-rich foods such as raisins, fish, eggs, peas, radishes, root vegetables, beans and whole-grain bread.
- Consult with your doctor about iron supplements and take Vitamin C to help with iron absorption.
- Craving foods like leafy greens, rice, fortified cereals, seafood, eggs, bananas, poultry, dairy, potatoes, tingling in the feet and hands, extreme fatigue, weakness, irritability or depression, rapid heartbeat, brain fog.
- Whole grains, peanuts, Fish (salmon and trout), clams, eggs, sunflower seeds, beans, green and yellow vegetables, and wheat germ.
- Consult with your doctor about a Vitamin B-12 supplement.
- Craving chocolate, agitation, anxiety, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), sleep disorders, irritability, nausea, abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, and confusion.
- Eat leafy green vegetables and chocolate with 75-percent cocoa for the best magnesium chocolate source.
- Consult with your doctor about a Magnesium supplement.
- Craving for all things cheese, rough or dry ‘bumpy’ skin, dry/dull brittle hair, brittle nails, excessive thirst, frequent urination, sleep problems, attention problems (distractibility and poor memory), depression and mood swings.
- Eat seafood especially fatty fishes like salmon tuna and sardines, and eggs.
- Consult with your doctor about a Omega-3 supplement.
- Craving sugary and salty junk foods, weakness, diarrhea, allergies/rashes, immune weakness, attention problems.
- Eat eggs, nuts, oysters, mushrooms, spinach, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cashews.
- Consult with your doctor about a Zinc supplement.
Here are some of my favorite supplements that have helped me tremendously over the last few years.