Follow That Craving!


The other night Todd made a yummy supper (grilled beef roast, fluffy baked potatoes loaded with toppings and steamed asparagus) and I just wasn’t feeling it.

Temperatures are already high here and Florida and this meal, while tasty, was hot, heavy, solid and totally not what my body was wanting. I’d been craving fresh fruit, fruit juices (water just has not been getting the job done, lately) and light foods in light colors.

A few years ago I did some basic reading on Ayurveda and wondered if there wasn’t something in my cravings to be found there.

Ayurveda is a [holistic] system of medicine from India that uses a constitutional model. Its aim is to provide guidance regarding food and lifestyle so that healthy people can stay healthy and folks with health challenges can improve their health. —Ayurvedic Foundations

Now, according to the quiz over at What’s Your Dosha? I’m Vata (with a slightly more Pitta mind). Even though I don’t fit some of the physical attributes of Vata (thin with a weight-gain difficulty? Hah!), I do fit other characteristics of the type (sensitivity to cold, delicate digestion, low stamina and so not a morning person).

Vata season is November through February and that’s the prime time for heavy meals and warm spices (a time I love, by the way–I’m usually all about sturdy foods). What we’re nearing the end of is Kapha season (March through June) when light meals are de rigueur to combat the “cold and wet” of the days leading up to the heat of Pitta (July through October) when light and cooling meals will keep the heat in balance.

Balance is a big thing in Ayurveda.

Of course, as I’m babbling on about one thing, Todd’s wheels start turning and he brings up Constitutional Psychology: the idea that body types can be classified as ecto-, endo- or mesomorphic based on physical characteristics. I hadn’t heard of those types before. Apparently this is really big in the body building world since it has a lot to do with bones, muscle and fat stores but doesn’t really affect the nutritional basics.

But what about those cravings?

I remember I would periodically crave all sorts of dairy out of blue. After noticing this happen a few times I began to think that it was my body’s way of telling me my calcium was low, or something like that. Incidentally: now that I have yogurt nearly every day, I no longer have those massive cravings for milk, yogurt or cheese. Not the most scientific testing method, but observation is a part of life, right?

Keeping in mind that I’m not a doctor or even a registered dietitian (though culinary school did include some nutritional training), I think there’s three reasons giving in to our cravings can be beneficial to our health:

  1. Cravings can signal something our body needs. Dairy cravings are simple, you could need more dairy or Vitamin D. But what about craving, say, pizza? Maybe your body needs some of those great tomato antioxidants and your body is just using a language you’ll easily recognize.
  2. Cravings can keep us from being overly restrictive. Dieting is usually the culprit here. When we restrict our diets to any sort of extreme (no carbs, no snacks, no sugar, etc.) sometimes those restrictions really get to us, wear us down and lead us to totally blow a diet (or lifestyle change) with a binge. By allowing small items that would otherwise be forbidden on your diet you lessen the chance of a binge.
  3. Cravings can signal a need for comfort. Different than a dietary need, when we start to crave foods from our childhood it can signal am emotional need for comfort or consolation. Sure, there are other ways to deal with emotional needs but having a cookie or cooking a favorite meal one night in full knowledge of what you’re doing can be quite soothing.

Moderation, as always, is the key, even when dealing with cravings.

What do you think? Given in or stand firm?