Nutripro: The Biological Basis of Cravings
Food is both fuel for the body and an important part of world cultures. Learn what researchers have discovered about food cravings, as well as why food is central to human cultural interaction.
Researchers have found that cravings for certain foods may be the body’s way of asking for the nutrition it needs. For example: Certain alkaloids in chocolate may stimulate the production of serotonin, known to enhance feelings of well-being. A pregnant woman’s desire for salty foods like a pickle or olives may be linked to her body’s need for additional minerals, particularly sodium. A craving for fruit may signal low blood sugar or a need for carbohydrates, whose primary function is to provide energy, especially for the brain and nervous system.
All over the world, food plays a central role in society. While each culture treats eating differently, we all value well-being and enjoyment of food. The French, for instance, would never consider multi-tasking while eating. In French Women Don’t Get Fat, author Mireille Guiliano suggests that sitting down and eating mindfully is a key factor in the French woman’s ability to stay slim. In the land of leisurely meals, savoring food deliberately increases the feeling of satisfaction, which helps control overeating and portion size.
The Chinese believe that foods can play significant roles in body health and vitality. Ingredients are described as “hot,” “cold” or “neutral,” and depending on people’s body status, foods of the opposite nature are eaten to bring the body back to balance. It’s also believed that eating certain foods together can be detrimental to the body, but eating seasonal food has great benefits, as seasonality coincides with nature. The Chinese saying “Yi Shi Yang Sheng” means eat well, stay healthy.
To Italians, family is everything, and the whole household sits down together to eat. Multiple generations may be involved in preparing food, and recipes are passed down through the family like heirlooms. No one eats until everyone is present and seated. As one regional proverb goes, Chi mangia e non invita, possa strozzarsi con ogni mollica (He who eats alone and invites no one, may choke with every crumb).