You do not crave certain foods because your “body needs it,” as if a
sense of nutritional deficiency is akin to a sense of touch or time. You
don’t get a hankerin’ for a cheeseburger because your body is trying to
tell you that you need to boost your iron or vitamin D or potassium.
This is a pervasive myth.
When you’re actually deficient in any particular nutrient, your body
will tell you in a much more extreme way. Instead of daydreaming about
your grandma’s biscuits and gravy, you actually get violently, debilitatingly ill whenever you are lacking a vital vitamin or mineral.
Outside of a literal state of starvation or extreme bodily stress, food cravings are purely psychological.
Sometimes the psychological effects can be caused by addictive
substances in certain foods that cause chemical reactions in the brain,
such as the opiates in dairy and the caffeine and other chemicals in
But for the most part, cravings are brought on by
complex environmental cues and triggers. They tend to have a lot more to
do with nostalgia than nutrition. They are conjured more by an errant
scent on the wind than by deficiency. They are more connected to the
media you consume than the vitamins you do not.
Nobody wants to
admit that hearing that three second McDonald’s jingle from the
receptionist’s radio in the background noise of their dentist’s office
is what actually made them determined to pull into the drive-thru on
the way home, but it’s certainly far more likely than any
pseudo-scientific old wives tale passed around by people who have
probably never even met a nutritionist in their life, let alone know
anything about nutritional medicine themselves. People want to believe they have more free will than that. They don’t.
However, through awareness of these things, we can start making more conscious choices about the food we consume.
So the next time someone tells you that humans must eat animal products simply because we crave them, please remember this.