Decoding your Food Cravings

Do you ever feel like food cravings often get in the way of your great nutritional intentions and that those cravings are in control of you?! Understanding why you crave what you do and how to work through them is a key lesson to learn on your nutritional journey.  

There are three types of food cravings: physical, mental/emotional and soulful.

Physically, food cravings are often a sign that the body is hungry for something it is not receiving. An imbalance or deficiency in our macronutrients (protein, essential fatty acids and carbohydrates) can often the greatest reason why we crave certain foods. A deficiency in amino acids (which we get from eating protein) can create food cravings. Amino acids produce the neurotransmitters in the brain which are the “feel-good” hormones. For example, protein contains tryptophan which is the precursor to making the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain - the calming neurotransmitter. If you do not eat and absorb enough tryptophan your serotonin production will be sub-optimal and that can lead to craving foods that cause the release of serotonin, like breads, pastas and baked goods, which are foods that temporarily leave you feeling calm and relaxed.

Eating too many carbohydrates can also trigger cravings. Excess carbohydrates can release too insulin which can cause energy crashes. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more you crave, because you need the pick-me-up sugars to feel good again.

In Ayurveda, oils on the tongue provide the brain with the message that it is receiving something sweet. Did you know that our very first taste experience was sweet, whether it was through mother’s milk or cow’s milk? We often associate sweet with feelings of pleasure and love, but if you do not eat enough essential fatty acids you can crave sugar.

There are other physical contributing factors to why we crave what we do. Salt cravings can often be a result of underactive adrenals. A magnesium deficiency can contribute to chocolate cravings because the theobromine, serotonin and anandamide in chocolate help to elevate mood and feelings of calmness, which is what magnesium does.

Our physical cravings are often about releasing our “hormones of happiness.” There is a purpose to why we crave what we do! Often correcting our macro and micro-nutrients within our diet can make a world of difference in alleviating food cravings.

For many, however, food cravings don’t end at the physical level. Behind every persistent food craving resides an emotion. In Constant Craving by Dr. Doreen Virtue, fear, anger, tension and shame are the most common emotions associated with food cravings. Even the smells and textures of food (crunchy or smooth) can tell us something about why we are craving that particular sensation. Food cravings and the emotions behind them can be complex but in the simplest and most general of terms, chocolate cravings are often associated with a need for love. Dairy cravings are often needed to ward off depression. Anxiety, stress and anger can often be alleviated by salty and crunchy foods. Spicy food fuels the desire for excitement. Nuts and nut butters are often craved when fun is needed and breads, pasta and rice are calming and comforting.

To overcome food cravings it is absolutely essential to be aware of what is actually triggering the craving and then learn how to resolve that issue. It is never about the food and it is not about how much willpower you have. It is about why you want and need that food. This is where the real story and work resides.

Once you have balanced out the physical and mental/emotional cravings, then you are left with the soulful cravings. Those are the ones where you would just truly love to eat what you seek. This type of craving comes from a conscious place of, “I choose to eat that”, “I would like to eat that” or “I would love to eat that,” as opposed to coming from a place of “I need to or I have to have that.” One is from a higher-minded conscious place, whereas the latter is from a lower-minded, emotional and stressed place. The key to a soulful craving is to be able to truly enjoy that food with no guilt, no shame or angst.

oulful cravings can also be about what your soul is not receiving. Often a lack of joy, love, pleasure, mission or purpose in our lives can be the reason why we crave food. Food often fills a void and that craving is often a symbol for what we are craving on a deeper soul level.  Nourishing your soul may be the most important "dietary" requirement to resolve your food cravings.

If you find this interesting and you would like to learn more about how to decode your food cravings join me and Culinary Chef, Susan Hoy on September 6th where we will help you get to the root of your cravings, and give you practical tools you can use to work through them. How nice would it be to get control of your cravings and have greater ease and freedom with food? 

This session is a taste for what you will learn and experience in The Simply Living Program.

If neither of these programs feel right for you but you would like to do personal and individual consultations with me, please call (403)245-2611 or email












Amy Bondar

As a certified holistic nutritionist, eating psychologist and Demartini Method(R) Facilitator, I'm passionate about helping people awaken to the power of foods to heal and bringing back the joy of eating.