Here’s What Your Food Cravings Are Telling You

Food cravings: one of the great mysteries of life. Fried chicken, salty potato chips, sugary sweet cereal, juicy watermelon — you’ve probably craved all of these foods at some point. But why does your sweet tooth come into full swing on some days, and your salty desires on others? Ahem, science.

Whatever you’re yearning for, it may be your body’s way of telling you that you actually need something else. Yes, you heard that right: Potato chips might not be the cure-all.

If you’re craving chocolate…

There’s a reason why people say chocolate is medicine for a bad day — science says it actually boosts your mood. If you’re constantly hitting up the local convenience store for another Hershey’s bar, try thinking about what is driving you to the store in the first place. A study by the American Chemical Society found that chocolate boosted levels of serotonin and dopamine — ya know, the feel-good stuff. Chocolate also contains magnesium and theobromine, which are known to reduce stress levels and relax tense muscles. This might also explain why our body craves chocolate during the height of our menstrual cycle.

If you’re craving cheese…

And we’re talking more than just queso and chips. Ooey gooey Cheese — and other types of dairy — cravings may mean that your body is in need of more Vitamin A or D (most of us have a Vitamin D deficiency, after all). But it’s more likely that you just need a mood boost. Cheese — no matter how you slice it — contains l-tryptophan, a compound that improves mood and promotes relaxation. So maybe take a bath instead of indulging in a massive cheese plate?! Or do both. We won’t judge.

If you’re craving salty snacks…

Whether you’re scouring the pantry for a bag of chips or loading up the salt on your french fries, salt is a major indicator of a mineral deficiency. Salty urges are linked to low levels of calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Some experts even think that our salty cravings are actually crunchy cravings in disguise. So maybe instead of a bag of chips, try a bag of carrots and see if that does it for ya.

If you’re craving carbs…

The real question is when are we not craving carbs?! Pasta, rice and bread are three of the world’s finest foods (we may be biased here). Regardless, Elizabeth DeRobertis, R.D. told Shape that carbohydrate cravings typically indicates low blood sugar levels. Like a lot of other foods, carbohydrates are also consumed for their mood-boosting properties. “Once a starchy food gets past the back of your tongue, your body treats it the same way as sugary sweets,” said Joseph Colella, MD in an interview with Cosmopolitan.That means that both carbs and sweets are signs that you need a mental break, emotional release or better yet, some overdue “me time.”

If you’re craving caffeine…

For starters, it could mean that you’re addicted. Or that you crave the feeling of a warm cup of joe. Both are highly likely. But caffeine’s energy boosting power could be a result of a lack of H20. “Picture a wilted plant that needs water,” DeRobertis says. “Shortly after you water it, it will perk back up. With people, it’s the same thing!” Moral of the story: If you’ve already had your latte in the morning, try balancing it with a big ol’ glass of water and see if you get a little more pep in your step that way.

Pay attention to your body — and your cravings — because it may have serious implications. Your body is constantly talking to you, so it’s time that you listen. Trust us: You’ll be better for it.

Amanda Garrity is a commerce editor and content producer living in New York City. She finds every excuse to go on an adventure, whether it's in her own backyard or across the country. She enjoys hiking, pretending she's a prima ballerina and drinking an abundant amount of coffee. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.