Do food cravings indicate a nutrient deficiency?
A food craving is the desire to eat a specific food or type of food. Craving is experienced when attempts to restrict intake of certain foods cause the desire for that food to become more salient(5). Women more commonly report food cravings than men do and in particular during the premenstrual phase, e.g. for chocolate. Chocolate contains numerous pharmacological substances (e.g. caffeine, theobromine, phenylethylamine and anandamides) and minerals such as magnesium, which may contribute to improve premenstrual symptoms. However, the amounts present cannot explain the beneficial effects reported after consumption of chocolate. Therefore, attempts to self-regulate, for example, magnesium levels via chocolate consumption are not justified! A bar of chocolate contains only 50mg of magnesium whereas magnesium supplementation studies suggest over 1000mg are required to improve premenstrual symptoms. Thus, psychological factors (e.g. depressed mood, dissatisfaction with body image) are strong determinants of foods craved that tend to be high in fat and sweet-tasting, as these sensory attributes are perceived as providing emotional satisfaction.