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What is your body lacking when you crave junk food?

Cravings for junk food like pizza, burgers, fries, and sweets are very common. These cravings are often blamed on a lack of willpower, but the truth is that they signify nutritional deficiencies in the body. When you have intense cravings for certain foods, it’s a sign that your body is lacking key vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, enzymes, or healthy fats that those foods contain.

Listening to your cravings and understanding what they mean can help you make healthier choices to get the nutrients you need, balance your blood sugar, and curb future cravings. This article will explore what various junk food cravings indicate about potential nutritional gaps and how you can healthfully satisfy those cravings.

Craving Bread, Pasta, Chips, or French Fries

Craving starchy carbohydrates like bread, pasta, chips, or french fries is often a sign that your body needs more complex carbohydrates. When blood sugar gets too low, the body begins desperately seeking a quick source of glucose energy, like processed refined carbs. While these will raise blood sugar fast, they lack fiber and nutrients.

Instead of reaching for white bread or chips, try satisfying the craving with:

  • Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, or whole-wheat bread which digest more slowly to keep blood sugar stable.
  • Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash, peas, or corn which come with more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than heavily processed carbs.
  • Beans or lentils that provide a healthy dose of plant-based protein and fiber along with the carbohydrates.

Getting adequate fiber from whole food sources helps slow the absorption of carbs to maintain steady energy levels. Aim for 25-35 grams of fiber daily from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. If the craving persists after getting fiber-rich complex carbs, it could signify:

  • Magnesium deficiency – Needed for blood sugar control and energy production. Get more from spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, bananas.
  • Chromium deficiency – Plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism. Get more from broccoli, whole grains, cheese, chicken.
  • Tryptophan deficiency – An amino acid that helps make serotonin which regulates appetite and cravings. Get more from turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese.

Craving Sweets like Cake, Cookies, Candy or Chocolate

When an intense craving for sweets strikes, it often indicates dropping blood sugar levels and the need for quick fuel to bring them back up. Simple sugars from sweets give an immediate energy boost but lead to a crash soon after. To healthfully satisfy a sweet tooth, try:

  • Fruit like berries, oranges, apples, or bananas which contain natural sugar plus fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Dairy like plain yogurt or cottage cheese which contain protein to balance blood sugar response.
  • Nuts like almonds, cashews, or peanuts have protein, fiber, and healthy fats to curb cravings.
  • Dark chocolate that is high in cacao and low in sugar provides antioxidants and blood sugar-friendly fats.

If sweets cravings still persist, you may be lacking in:

  • Magnesium – Plays over 300 roles in regulating blood sugar, metabolism, and energy. Get more from dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, legumes, avocados.
  • Chromium – Helps insulin metabolize sugar for energy. Get more from broccoli, barley, oysters, eggs, meat.
  • Tryptophan – Precursor to serotonin which suppresses appetite. Get more from turkey, cottage cheese, nuts, seeds, beans.

Craving Salt from Chips, Pretzels, Fast Food or Salty Snacks

Craving salty foods often signals an electrolyte imbalance in the body, most often a sodium or chloride deficit. To healthfully satisfy salt cravings, try increasing:

  • Mineral-rich vegetables like celery, spinach, and carrots
  • Electrolyte-containing drinks like coconut water or bone broth
  • Natural salts like Himalayan pink salt or sea salt
  • Fermented foods like kimchi, pickles or sauerkraut which contain beneficial probiotics
  • Healthy fatty foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olives

If you still have persistent salt cravings after getting more electrolytes, you may be deficient in:

  • Zinc – Needed for cell growth and communication. Get more from beef, beans, yogurt, cashews.
  • Iron – Required for oxygen transport in blood. Get more from meat, spinach, lentils, eggs.
  • Iodine – Crucial for thyroid health and metabolism. Get more from seafood, eggs, dairy, prunes.

Craving Meat, Eggs or Cheese

Craving high-protein foods like meat, eggs and cheese is typically a sign that your body needs more protein, amino acids and fatty acids. To healthfully satisfy protein and fatty cravings, try:

  • Lean meats like chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef or wild-caught fish
  • Vegetable-based proteins like beans, lentils, tofu or tempeh
  • Nuts and seeds high in amino acids like almonds, walnuts, flax and chia
  • Full-fat dairy like Greek yogurt, kefir, and quality cheeses
  • Avocados and coconuts for healthy fats

Some potential nutrient deficiencies underlying meat cravings include:

  • Iron – Needed for blood cell formation and energy metabolism. Get more from grass-fed beef, chicken, spinach, lentils.
  • B12 – Required for nerve tissue health and red blood cell production. Get more from fish, meat, eggs and dairy.
  • Zinc – Involved in immune health, growth and healing. Get more from beef, chicken, nuts, yogurt, oysters.

Craving Coffee or Energy Drinks

Strong cravings for coffee, energy drinks or soda could signify an energy slump and need for fuel. Caffeine provides a quick boost but can quickly lead to a crash. For healthy energy, try:

  • Whole foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, and yogurt for long-lasting energy.
  • Protein smoothies with fruits, greens, nut butters or Greek yogurt for steady energy and fullness.
  • Drinking enough water to prevent dehydration and fatigue.
  • Green tea or matcha for a smaller dose of caffeine plus antioxidants.
  • Adaptogen herbs like ashwagandha, ginseng, and maca root to combat stress-related fatigue.

If fatigue and low energy persist, look into deficiencies in:

  • Iron – Needed for proper oxygen transport in blood. Get more from meat, spinach, lentils.
  • Vitamin D – Boosts immunity and mood. Get more from sunlight, fish, eggs, liver.
  • B vitamins – Convert food into cellular energy. Get more from chicken, fish, eggs, leafy greens.

Craving Fast Food Combo Meals

Craving fast food combo meals with a burger, fries, and soda represents cravings for carbs, fat, salt, and sugar together. This points to potential deficiencies in:

  • Dopamine – The “feel good” neurotransmitter that is stimulated by high-fat and high-sugar foods. Get natural boosts from exercise, socializing, music, and hobbies.
  • Serotonin – The “happy hormone” that curbs carb cravings. Get more from turkey, cheese, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.
  • Fiber – Feeds healthy gut bacteria to reduce cravings. Get more from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
  • Healthy fats – Improve satiety and blood sugar control. Get more from fatty fish, avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds.

For a more balanced meal with protein, carbs and fats try:

  • A turkey or veggie burger with sweet potato fries and avocado
  • Stir fry with brown rice, lean meat, veggies, and healthy oils
  • Veggie omelet with whole grain toast and fruit
  • Lean meat or fish with roasted veggies and quinoa

Craving Pizza

Pizza often satisfies cravings for carbs, fat, salt and savory flavor. A slice or two as an occasional treat is fine, but for a healthier satisfying option try:

  • Cauliflower pizza crust for fewer carbs and calories
  • Loading up veggie toppings like mushrooms, peppers, spinach
  • Choosing healthier meats like chicken sausage or anchovies
  • Adding healthy fats like avocado or olive oil
  • Swapping regular cheese for part-skim varieties
  • Accompanying it with a big salad for extra fiber and nutrients

If pizza cravings are frequent, you may not be getting enough:

  • Protein – For satiety, blood sugar balance and muscle repair. Get more from lean meats, beans, nuts, Greek yogurt.
  • Iron – Needed for oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Get more from spinach, grass-fed beef, lentils, seafood.
  • Calcium – For bone health, muscle and nerve function. Get more from dairy, leafy greens, tofu, almonds.
  • Magnesium – For converting blood sugar into energy. Get more from leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, avocados.


Junk food cravings are the body’s way of signaling that it needs more essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, fiber and nutrients. Identifying the specific deficiencies underlying your cravings can help guide you in making healthier choices.

Satisfying cravings with whole foods that provide balanced nutrition helps restore the body’s needs so that intense cravings taper off. Aim for a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, beneficial fats and key micronutrients from a variety of unprocessed food sources.

With mindful eating habits and filling nutrient gaps, you can conquer junk food cravings for good!