With a degree in Exercise Science and a devoted interest to health and nutrition, it probably won't shock you to know that I love watching Discovery Channel-type television. So much of that stuff is fascinating to me; especially when it relates to the human body. Scientists are still discovering so much about us and how we work. Who knows what we will learn to know about ourselves 20 years down the road? See, that just excites me! I am a science geek at heart. So anyway, back to the question: What drives our cravings?
While watching Human Body: Pushing the Limits with Brain Power, they used a real-life story of a man stranded at sea to illustrate how the brain tells us what to eat. Essentially, our brain detects nutrients in our bodies that are deficient. The brain then sends us messages telling us what to eat based on the nutrients found in the food. We call these messages "cravings".
The man at sea was fortunate to have an emergency boat, some food, water and fishing equipment. However, when the food ran out, he was left only to eat fish. At least he had something to eat, right? Sushi! Well, unfortunately the meaty part of the fish doesn't contain enough of the nutrients for his body to survive. The good news is that the other parts of the fish (fins, scales, eyes, liver) do. To survive, he had to eat those other parts of the fish. After some time, as he grew weaker, something in his brain told him to try eating those other parts. What he found was that those "other parts" which he had once found revolting were actually delicious to him. His body needed the nutrients found in the "gross parts", so his brain told him they tasted great. His brain saved his life and allowed him to stay healthy for 75 days until he was rescued. Isn't that cool?!?
Watch the segment from Human Body: Pushing the Limits HERE.
There may be a real nutritional deficiency going on in our bodies that is driving what we eat. I can't imagine this is all the time, but I'm not the expert here. You just can't tell me that there is something in this box of Christmas cookies on my desk that I absolutely need. Regardless, my brain is telling me to eat one and I should probably listen to it!
The next time you crave something, it would be interesting to consider what nutrients are in that particular food. It could be a legitimate message from your brain telling you that your body is lacking something. Our brains are incredible things. I don't doubt they tell us what to eat without us even knowing it.