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WHAT YOUR CRAVINGS ARE TELLING YOU ABOUT YOUR BODY (AND MIND)

Debashruti Banerjee

5 min read

Your kitchen raids and midnight munchies might mean more than what meets the eye. Are you missing out on a crucial health signal?

A food craving, separate from hunger, is an intense and specific desire that doesn’t alleviate until you give in. This want-over-need approach implies that cravings are associated with more than what we eat. What we crave for are also little indications of our physical and emotional well-being.

“Life is so fast-paced these days that people do not realise how stressed they are. Often they turn to food for comfort,” says Dr. Dharini Krishnan, a consultant dietician in Chennai.

“The experience of a food craving is multidimensional. Physiologically, it is associated with several processes that prepare the body for ingestion and motivates food seeking and consumption such as increased salivary flow and activation of reward-related brain areas such as the striatum. It also includes cognitive (i.e., thinking about the food) and emotional (e.g., desire to eat or changes in mood) components,” says German researcher Adrian Meule in The Psychology of Food Cravings: the Role of Food Deprivation.

Meule also mentions that cravings are interindividual, based on different behaviours and situations. Therefore, the popular notion that dieting is the dominant factor in increased cravings is too simplistic.

Related story: 7 Nutritional Deficiencies That Can Wreck Your Mental Health

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