Vitamin Deficiencies and Cravings 101
Do you feel like you need something sweet to get to sleep at night? Do you find when you work out a lot you actually gain weight because your appetite is so voracious you cannot stay out of the fridge? Do you panic at the thought of giving up bread, sugar, and sweeteners?
Often, strong cravings for food are not just caused by dieting, sugar addiction, or intense exercise increasing your body’s demand for calories. Many cravings for foods such as refined carbs, sugar, salt, and fatty foods – even lemony and sour treats, are actually caused by nutrient deficiencies.
A choline deficiency, for example, can lead to cravings for sour things and lemon. Choline supplements actually taste like lemon candy and people who are low on choline love the taste of these.
Potassium deficiency often creates cravings for sweet things because your body is in a slump and wants that quick bump in blood sugar to power you through the day. Potassium deficiencies can also lead to cravings for salty foods, because potassium and sodium are directly connected, helping to regulate water balance in the body. Magnesium deficiencies lead to cravings for chocolate, as dark chocolate is rich in this mineral.
Other Ways Vitamin Deficiencies Cause Weight Gain
Besides creating powerful food cravings, nutrient deficiencies are being tied to obesity and weight gain in two other significant ways as well. In a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers found that obese individuals suffered from 5 to 12% lower levels of vitamins and minerals across the board but especially in vitamins A, C, D, and magnesium.
Researchers speculate that not only is this because obese persons are eating a nutrient empty diet full of refined carbohydrates, sugar, and fast foods, but also because these kind of nutrient deficiencies can actually cause weight gain because of the way they impact hormones, the fat cells, and fat storage in the body.
Vitamin A, for example, is a fat soluble vitamin and it helps regulate fat cells and the hormones they release in the body, such as cortisol, our fat storage hormone. Vitamin D, which nearly half of Americans are deficient in (41.6%, Nutrition Research), influences the release of leptin, our “hunger hormone” in the body.
Protein is another crucial nutrient for weight loss. Protein helps keep your body satisfied and suppresses hunger, speeds the metabolism, and controls all of our fat storage hormones through the production of amino acids.
So, when your body isn’t getting what it needs in terms of nutrients, it creates powerful cravings and hunger signals in an effort to get you to eat those nutrients and also signals the body to store fat in case of siege and starvation (we get this from our ancestors, who had to go for days sometimes before their next food source (nutrients) was discovered).
In short, the body is trying to keep you alive in whatever ways it can and it will fight you if you deprive it of health in terms of its vitamins and minerals. This is why it is so hard to lose weight in the first place – the body doesn’t like to lose anything . . . and it’s the same with nutrients.
Your body needs protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes every day if you want to keep your body primed for weight loss. When your body stops fighting you, you will lose weight.
The Solution? Eat Nutrient Dense for Maximum Weight Loss
Eating nutrient dense will satisfy food cravings, keep your body primed for weight loss, and can become just as much a habit as eating nutrient empty can.
Whenever you’re at the store, start looking at labels—even on your greens. Why not reach for that romaine and spring greens mix instead of that iceberg lettuce? Why not work some green superfood drinks packed with vitamins and nutrients into your diet instead of saccharine and toxin-laden, nutrient-empty diet sodas?
Eating nutrient dense will quell all food cravings and give your body the nutrients it needs to start shuttling fat out of the body in waste instead of into the fat cells. Protein is a great way to power you through the day and crush food cravings, and whey protein weight loss shakes are packed with vitamins, minerals, and compounds that will keep your metabolism revving at a fast clip and power you through your day, preventing those cravings that lead to slips — and potato chip binges.