The Root Causes of Cravings – Part 1

cravings, sugar craving, carb cravings, crave

Helpful Highlights:

  • With 98% of women affected by cravings, it’s no surprise that this is one of the most common reasons we struggle with consistently eating healthfully.
  • Greater willpower isn’t the solution. There are many underlying biochemical causes of cravings and once they are addressed, cravings disappear.
  • A few first steps you can take to eliminate cravings is to eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense food, avoid refined sugars and carbohydrates, and avoid artificial sweeteners.

Cravings are arguably the #1 reason many of us get off track and find it difficult to maintain eating healthfully. Think about it: how much easier would it be for you to eat healthfully if you had zero cravings? If you simply no longer wanted the foods that work against your goals? Would it change the way you eat?

Whether it’s sugar or salty foods that you crave most, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that about 98% of women struggle with cravings. 98%!

If you’ve tried again and again to kick sugar cravings to the curb without any long-term success or you’re simply tired of being told that ‘you just need more willpower’, this series is for you!

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you read this series:

  • When do I experience cravings? At a certain time each day? If I wait too long between meals?
  • What do I typically crave?
  • When I crave something sweet or salty, do I feel any hunger or am I full?
  • What triggers my cravings? Maybe it’s fatigue, stress, emotions, etc.
  • How do I feel after I indulge?

These are important questions to answer as you begin to discover your root cause of cravings.

I have some good news for you: Greater willpower isn’t the solution. There are many underlying biochemical causes of cravings and once they are addressed, cravings disappear. 

It’s time to put away the guilt, shame, and regret associated with cravings and learn why cravings exist and what you can do to eliminate them, so that you are no longer tempted to make poor choices.

So in this series, we’re going to put aside everything we’ve been told about cravings so that we start to understand (and address!) cravings in a whole new light. We’ll learn:

  • The root causes of cravings and the science behind cravings
    (i.e. what’s happening biochemically in your body!)
  • How to eat to avoid cravings
  • The steps you can take to effectively eliminate cravings
  • And more!

The Root Causes of Cravings

Nutrient deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies are often overlooked as an underlying cause of cravings. We know that the Standard American Diet leaves us overfed and undernourished, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that many of us are deficient in key vitamins and minerals.

In fact, many overweight and obese individuals are nutritionally starved, so to speak, because their diet is grossly lacking in nutrients (which are found in real, fresh, whole food) even though it is abundant in calories. There is a big difference between nutrients and calories.

Here’s the fascinating part. If you’re deficient in a trace mineral, for example, your body is going to send signals to your brain to eat until that need is met, or until you’re too full to meet the need. This means, if Oreos are the only thing in sight, you’ll want to eat them until your body has meet it’s need for that nutrient you’re deficient in. What you’re really craving is nutrients, but the problem is that we turn to processed, food-like products that are nutritionally void, so we find ourselves overeating, yet still feeling unsatisfied. It’s a vicious cycle.

Real, whole, fresh, colorful food is what will truly keep you feeling satisfied because it provides your body with the essential nutrients you need. Processed food-like products? They’ll keep you full (which is never the goal anyway), they might even have some vitamins and minerals, but you’ll still be nutritionally starving because of the calorie/nutrient ratio.

Eat real food!

Consuming refined sugar and carbohydrates

Consuming processed, refined sugar increases sugar cravings because we become used to the large amounts sugar in these ‘food-like products’. This is why, if you do consume a lot of refined sugar, fruit just doesn’t taste very sweet.

The good news is that the less refined sugar you consume, the more you’ll start to enjoy the sweetness of fruit. In fact, if you completely eliminate refined sugar for a period of time (like the Sugar Detox we’re doing in my Facebook group), you’ll start to have a distaste for it when you have it again. If you don’t think it will work for you, try it – you’ll be surprised when you bite into a cookie or ice cream and you find that it tastes sickeningly sweet. This is when fruit starts to become sweet again! Our taste buds do change, we just have to retrain them.

Regularly consuming these foods also result in hormone imbalances, which we will discuss more in Part 2!

Consuming artificial sweeteners

While artificial sweeteners may seem like a better choice than sugar if you’re trying to watch your weight or reduce cravings, they make the situation much worse. Here’s why: since they are non-nutritive yet still incredibly sweet, they trigger an insulin response in the body which stimulates hunger and increases cravings – this is the exact opposite of what we would expect from artificial sweeteners and why we should avoid them at all costs.

I’d much rather you have real sugar than artificial sweeteners.

Related: Sweeteners to Avoid and 5 Natural Alternatives

Read Part 2 of the Root Causes of Cravings here

Do any of these root causes surprise you? Be sure to join the Facebook community right here to participate in our Sugar Detox coming soon.


Hannah Smith

Hannah is the founder of Healthfully Hannah and is a nutrition professional empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Get in touch with Hannah right here.


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  1. I am glad to see you mention the real causes of cravings. I have found these to be true. Keto eating plan has helped me stop cravings. Luv intermittent fasting. The only way I could lose weight after 60 yr old.