Featured image for food cravings charts

Food Cravings Chart, Myth or Fact?

Have you ever had a sudden urge to eat something sweet, salty, or both? Back when I was a medical student, sometimes I suddenly wanted to eat ice cream in the middle of listening to a lecture. Like, really really wanted it. Well, let’s just say I had to study extra hard to catch up on what I missed in those classes. But aren’t you curious, why can there be a sudden desire to consume certain foods? 

The intense desire to consume certain foods is called food cravings. It is usually influenced by hormonal changes, dehydration, emotional and environmental factors, or nutritional deficiencies.1

Many online and social media articles write that craving certain foods is a sign that our body is experiencing a deficiency of certain nutrients. I’ll say this straight to you: Most of those claims aren’t true, or at least haven’t been scientifically proven.

As a Registered Dietitian in Gizigo, I browsed the scientific studies and checked the facts for you.

Which cravings are true? You can see the summary on this table.

CRAVINGSDEFICIENCYTrue or False Information
Acidic foodsMagnesiumFalse
Alcoholic drinksVitamin BFalse
Bread / toastNitrogenFalse
Burned foodsCarbonFalse
CheeseVitamin DFalse
Ice (chewing)IronTRUE
Oily snacks / fatty foodsCalciumFalse
Pregnancy cravingsTRUE
Premenstrual cravingsTRUE
Red meatsIronFalse
Salty foodsChlorideFalse
SweetsZinc, chromium, iron, calcium, magnesiumFalse
Tobacco / smokingMicronutrientsFalse
Table of food cravings chart

I also provided the full-version infographic of the food cravings chart. Check it by clicking this thumbnail.

Thumbnail image for food Cravings Chart Infographic

For more detailed explanation for each cravings, you can find the information below.

Food Cravings Chart – The Misleading Ones

Chocolate Craving

Chocolate Craving Chart

Some say when you want to eat chocolate, your body needs magnesium. Is that true?

Unfortunately, no scientific studies are related to the relationship between chocolate and magnesium deficiency. I guess now it’s safe to surmise that “craving chocolate means having magnesium deficiency” is just s a myth.

Magnesium supports enzyme work, energy formation, strengthens the immune system, and together with calcium plays a role in muscle relaxation. Magnesium must be present at normal levels in the body to maintain the body’s balance. The most common symptoms of magnesium deficiency are muscle spasms and cramps.2

To prevent magnesium deficiency, we can consume green vegetables, nuts, whole wheat bread, cereals, seafood, and chocolate to meet magnesium needs.2

Sweets Craving

Sweets Craving Chart

Both men and women experience a craving for sweet foods. Several sources write that when craving sweet foods, our body needs zinc, chromium, iron, calcium, and magnesium. But is it true?

I checked  and found no scientific research to prove this. So, it seems the “craving for sweet foods is a sign of deficiency of zinc, chromium, iron, calcium, and magnesium” is another nutritional myth.

Zinc is important in activating various enzymes, maintaining eye health, wound healing, and fetal growth. Zinc deficiency can cause a condition called failure to thrive, called dwarfism.

Chromium functions in fat and carbohydrate metabolism and increases insulin action. Chromium deficiency will cause blood glucose levels to exceed normal limits, impaired glucose tolerance, and decreased insulin and glucagon function.

Calcium is a macro mineral that plays a role in bone formation, muscle contraction, and enzyme activation. Lack of calcium causes a decrease in bone mass (osteoporosis).2

Healthy foods containing zinc are shellfish, meat, eggs, and milk. For chromium, you can eat wheat, nuts, and cheese. Calcium can be found in green vegetables, milk, fish, and cheese.  Iron can be found in green vegetables, meat, eggs, and fish.2

Cheese Craving

Cheese Craving Chart

It is said that the desire to consume cheese appears when the body needs vitamin D. However, it turns out that this is untrue. No scientific research proves the link between cheese cravings and vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D plays an important role in bone growth. Vitamin D deficiency is called rickets, characterized by softening of the bones or failure of bone calcification, which usually affects children. One of the factors that cause vitamin D deficiency is the lack of exposure to sunlight.2

To meet the body’s need for vitamin D, wet can consume eggs, liver, butter, fish, and fortified milk.2

Bread or Toast Craving

Bread Toast Craving Chart

Many associate the intense desire to consume bread and toast with a lack of nitrogen levels in the body. But unfortunately, there hasn’t been any scientific research that proves the link between craving bread/toast with nitrogen deficiency. So this one is mostly just false information.

Nitrogen functions to form proteins for growth, brain development, hormone formation, and immune system development.

To meet the needs of nitrogen in the body, you can consume protein sources such as nuts, fish, eggs, and shellfish.

Red Meat Craving

Red Meat Craving Chart

Meat lovers obviously crave eating red meat. However, some people also believe that when you want to eat red meat, your body actually needs iron. Well, this is just a myth. After further investigation, no studies prove the relationship between red meats and iron deficiency.

Iron has the important function of delivering oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency is a common cause of anemia in young women and pregnant women.2

Besides meat, consuming green vegetables, eggs, and fish can meet the need for iron.2

Peanuts Craving

Peanuts Craving Chart

A lot of information is circulating that when you want to consume nuts, the body signals its need for sodium. But this is just baseless information, and no scientific studies have been found that explains the link between peanut craving and sodium deficiency.

Sodium binds to water in the body, so a person will feel thirsty when consuming too much salty food. Sodium deficiency is rare; otherwise, people tend to consume excess sodium. Studies show the average sodium consumption in America is 3200 mg, whereas the recommended limit is 2300 mg. Excess sodium consumption can trigger hypertension, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.2

The recommended foods to meet our sodium needs are canned food, soy sauce, and salt.2

Coffee Craving

Coffee Craving Chart

Some sources say that when you experience a coffee craving, the nutrient your body needs is sulfur. Is that true? I looked into it and found that this has not been scientifically proven. So, for the time being, I consider this a myth.

Sulfur plays an important role in protein synthesis, enzyme activation, and as a constituent of various antioxidants.3

Sulfur deficiency is very rare. When a person consumes enough protein, sulfur needs will be easily fulfilled.2

You can consume protein sources such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, and nuts to meet sulfur needs.2

Alcoholic Drinks Craving

Alcoholic Drinks Craving Chart

It’s not uncommon that some of us suddenly have an urge for alcoholic drinks. People say when you crave alcohol, your body needs B vitamins. It turns out that’s just not true. So far, no research proves the link between alcohol and B vitamins.

Vitamins B are water-soluble vitamins that function in the formation of coenzymes and play a role in the process of forming energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Vitamin B is a complex vitamin consisting of vitamins B1 (riboflavin), B2 (niacin), B3 (thiamine), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12.

A deficiency of vitamin B1 is called beriberi. This condition is characterized by numbness in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, muscle paralysis, and heart failure. Folic acid deficiency in pregnant women can cause the fetus NTD (neural tube defects). Lack of folic acid and vitamin B12 can cause macrocytic anemia.2

Wheat, rice, beans, beets, and red meat can provide sufficient B vitamins.2

Oily Snacks or Fatty Foods Craving

Oily Snacks Fatty Foods Craving Chart

Craving oily snacks / fatty foods is often associated with the body’s need for calcium. This claim is just another myth. No scientific studies can prove the relationship between craving oily snacks / fatty foods and calcium deficiency.

Calcium plays an important role in building bones. Lack of calcium causes a bone mass decrease, or osteoporosis, which often affects older people.2

Green vegetables, fish, milk, and nuts are recommended to meet your calcium needs.2

Burned Foods Craving

Burned Foods Craving Chart

When a desire to consume burned foods appears, people sometimes link it with a lack of carbon nutrients in the body. Well, no research has yet to prove the relationship between burned foods and carbon deficiency.

As a carbon-based life form, carbon is an important substance that makes up our bodies. Carbon nutrients are easy to obtain and are found in all food ingredients, so it is enough to consume food to meet our carbon needs

Salty Foods Craving

Salty Foods Craving Chart

It’s common for men and women to crave salty foods suddenly. Some sources say that your body lacks chloride when you want to consume salty foods. But is it true? It turns out that this has not been scientifically proven. There are no scientific studies regarding the relationship between craving salty foods and chloride deficiency. So, this claim is false.

Chloride is one of the constituent elements of HCL (hydrochloride acid) in the stomach, which functions to break down proteins and fight bacteria and viruses in food that enters the stomach. Chloride deficiency is very rare.2

Although chloride deficiency is rare, salt, soy sauce, and packaged foods can meet chloride needs.2

Acidic Foods Craving

Acidic Foods Craving Chart

Have you ever heard of this opinion: If a craving for acidic foods appears, it indicates that the body is deficient in magnesium? Several sources state this. But in reality, this is a piece of misleading information. So far, no scientific studies have proven the link between craving acidic foods and magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium supports enzyme work, energy formation, strengthens the immune system, and together with calcium plays a role in muscle relaxation. The most common symptoms of magnesium deficiency are muscle spasms and cramps.2

You can consume green vegetables, nuts, whole wheat bread, cereals, seafood, and chocolate to meet your magnesium need.2

Tobacco or Smoking Craving

Tobacco Smoking Craving Chart

The desire to smoke sometimes is associated with micronutrient deficiencies. But in fact, it’s not true. Tobacco itself causes an addiction, so there’s not much credibility in saying a nutrient deficiency is causing the craving for a smoke.

Instead, smoking reduces vitamin C and beta-carotene availability in plasma. Cadmium content in cigarettes can also inhibit the absorption of selenium and impede the performance of antioxidant enzymes.4

Researchers compared the group of active smokers and non-smokers. The results showed that the frequency of experiencing food cravings for fatty foods and fast food in the smoking group was higher than in the non-smoker group. However, researchers do not know the relationship between food cravings and smoking.5

Healthy foods recommended for consumption are foods with high antioxidant content (such as fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapes, dates, strawberries, peppers, carrots, and bananas) and vegetables (such as broccoli, spinach, cabbage, tomatoes, and lettuce).6

Food Cravings Chart – The Scientifically Proven

Apart from misleading information about food cravings, there are also scientific discussions related to this behavior. Several researchers have scientifically examined several habits associated with food cravings.

Chewing Ice Craving

Chewing Ice Craving Chart

The habit of consuming ice cubes is called pagophagia which belongs to the condition of pica. Pica is defined as the desire to consume objects without nutritional value.

Researchers state that pica is closely related to iron deficiency. A study comparing the pica group with the control group showed that the risk of iron deficiency anemia in the pica group was 2.35 greater than in the control group. Foods that contain iron to prevent pica are meat, eggs, fish, green vegetables, and wheat.2

Before Period / Premenstrual Craving

PMS Premenstrual Craving Chart

Premenstrual craving is the desire to consume certain foods before menstruation.7

Hormonal changes are a factor causing premenstrual cravings. High levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen in the blood will increase appetite, impacting cravings for certain foods.8

Craving levels were reported to grow 66% higher 7 days before menstruation. Studies state that during the premenstrual period, women tend to experience cravings for sweet foods such as chocolate and fatty foods.8

So, don’t feel guilty about wanting to eat sweets when it’s that time of the month!

Pregnancy Craving

Pregnancy Craving Chart

Cases of food cravings are special cases when women experience pregnancy.

Energy changes during pregnancy affect psychological conditions and the sensitivity of the sense of smell, which impacts the desire to consume certain foods. Other evidence suggests that psychological changes lead to changes in insulin resistance and glucose tolerance in pregnant women with gestational diabetes resulting in a craving for sweet foods.11

More on Food Cravings

Food craving is a very common condition that happens occasionally. However, if this condition occurs continuously, it could harm the body’s health. For example, suppose you constantly want food with high sugar and calorie content. In that case, you are more likely to eat those foods and have a higher risk of diabetes, obesity, and increased cholesterol.

Well, it turns out this food craving could be dangerous if we don’t handle it properly. 

There are many causes for food cravings apart from deficiencies of certain nutrients that we’ll discuss further.

Food Craving is Strongly Affected by Gender

Gender Affects Food Craving Chart

Researchers say that women experience food cravings twice as often as men. Women tend to experience cravings for sweet foods, while men tend to have cravings for salty and savory foods more often.

In women, food craving tends to be a coping mechanism in dealing with problems. In men, food craving often appears when someone is in a happy state.9

Most of It hasn’t been Scientifically Proven

Researchers have not found strong evidence to suggest that deficiencies in certain nutrients cause food cravings.

Let’s take this claim as an example: Craving chocolate indicates a person has a magnesium deficiency.

People usually believe that women experience more chocolate cravings than men. Yet, a study in America showed that the adequacy of magnesium intake in adult men and women was not much different, namely at 66-84% for men and 63-80% for women. This point proves that chocolate craving is unrelated to magnesium deficiency.10

Common Causes of Food Cravings

Factors that can influence the emergence of food cravings are different in each person. The following are some of them:

  • Mental pressure
    Restricting the consumption of certain foods can cause the desire to consume these foods to become greater.12
    The results of a study regarding food restrictions in subjects with normal nutritional status showed an increased desire to consume restricted foods at the end of the intervention period.
    However, the opposite occurred in subjects with more nutritional status. The average subjects stated that they experienced decreased food cravings for all types of food.13
  • Associations with a particular context
    Under certain circumstances, the brain will remember and connect certain foods to certain events. Such is the case with the relationship between popcorn and movies. Some people will feel craving popcorn while watching movies.14
  • Emotions
    Mood and feelings can affect the desire to consume certain foods.15
  • Stress level
    In some people, stressful conditions can trigger an increased desire to consume certain foods.16
  • Lack of sleep
    When a person does not get enough sleep, there will be hormonal changes in the body, which causes an increase in the desire to consume certain foods.17 18
  • Dehydration
    Less fluid consumption will cause a person to experience cravings for certain drinks.19
  • Insufficient protein or fiber
    Lack of protein and fiber consumption can trigger a person to feel hungry and increase the desire to consume certain foods.20 21 22

(Author: Silvia Bufa Amanda; Editor: Laras Ayu Sekar Arum)


  1. McGreen, J., Kemps, E., & Tiggemann, M. (2022). Beyond thirst: Cravings for non-alcoholic beverages including soft drink. Eating Behaviors, 46, 101662.
  2. DeBruyne, L. K., Pinna, K., & Whitney, E. N. (2015). Nutrition and diet therapy. Boston: Cengage Learning.
  3. Hill, C. R., Shafaei, A., Balmer, L., Lewis, J. R., Hodgson, J. M., Millar, A. H., & Blekkenhorst, L. C. (2022). Sulfur compounds: From plants to humans and their role in chronic disease prevention. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 1-23.
  4. Preston, A. M. (1991). Cigarette smoking-nutritional implications. Progress in food & nutrition science, 15(4), 183-217.
  5. Chao, A. M., White, M. A., Grilo, C. M., & Sinha, R. (2017). Examining the effects of cigarette smoking on food cravings and intake, depressive symptoms, and stress. Eating behaviors, 24, 61-65. 
  6. Jideani, A. I., Silungwe, H., Takalani, T., Omolola, A. O., Udeh, H. O., & Anyasi, T. A. (2021). Antioxidant-rich natural fruit and vegetable products and human health. International Journal of Food Properties, 24(1), 41-67.
  7. Abdullah, N. F., Hamirudin, A. H., Sidek, S., & Hassan, N. A. A. M. Food Craving and Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome among University Students. Mal J Med Health Sci 17(2): 189-196.
  8. Yukie, M., Aoi, I., Mizuki, K., & Toshiyuki, Y. (2020). Change in appetite and food craving during menstrual cycle in young students. International Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 12(2), 25-30.
  9. Lafay, L., Thomas, F., Mennen, L., Charles, M. A., Eschwege, E., & Borys, J.-M. (2001). Gender differences in the relation between food cravings and mood in an adult community: Results from the Fleurbaix Laventie Ville Sante Study. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 29(2), 195–204. doi:10.1002/1098-108x(200103)29:2<195::aid-eat1009>3.0.co;2-n.
  10. Ford ES, Mokdad AH. Dietary magnesium intake in a national sample of US adults. J Nutr. 2003 Sep;133(9):2879-82. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.9.2879. PMID: 12949381.
  11. Hill, A. J., Cairnduff, V., & McCance, D. R. (2016). Nutritional and clinical associations of food cravings in pregnancy. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 29(3), 281-289.
  12. Barnes RD, Tantleff-Dunn S. Food for thought: examining the relationship between food thought suppression and weight-related outcomes. Eat Behav. 2010 Aug;11(3):175-9. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2010.03.001. Epub 2010 Mar 21. PMID: 20434065.
  13. Meule, A. (2020). The psychology of food cravings: The role of food deprivation. Current nutrition reports, 9(3), 251-257.
  14. Zellner DA, Garriga-Trillo A, Centeno S, Wadsworth E. Chocolate craving and the menstrual cycle. Appetite. 2004 Feb;42(1):119-21. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2003.11.004. PMID: 15036792.
  15. Rodríguez-Martín BC, Meule A. Food craving: new contributions on its assessment, moderators, and consequences. Front Psychol. 2015 Jan 22;6:21. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00021. PMID: 25657636; PMCID: PMC4302707.
  16. Epel E, Lapidus R, McEwen B, Brownell K. Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2001 Jan;26(1):37-49. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4530(00)00035-4. PMID: 11070333.
  17. Markwald RR, Melanson EL, Smith MR, Higgins J, Perreault L, Eckel RH, Wright KP Jr. Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Apr 2;110(14):5695-700. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1216951110. Epub 2013 Mar 11. PMID: 23479616; PMCID: PMC3619301.
  18. Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Med. 2004 Dec;1(3):e62. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062. Epub 2004 Dec 7. PMID: 15602591; PMCID: PMC535701.
  19. Muckelbauer R, Sarganas G, Grüneis A, Müller-Nordhorn J. Association between water consumption and body weight outcomes: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug;98(2):282-99. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.055061. Epub 2013 Jun 26. PMID: 23803882.
  20. Hoertel HA, Will MJ, Leidy HJ. A randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs. high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese “breakfast skipping”, late-adolescent girls. Nutr J. 2014 Aug 6;13:80. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-80. PMID: 25098557; PMCID: PMC4249715.
  21. Leidy HJ, Tang M, Armstrong CL, Martin CB, Campbell WW. The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Apr;19(4):818-24. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.203. Epub 2010 Sep 16. PMID: 20847729; PMCID: PMC4564867.
  22. Howarth NC, Saltzman E, Roberts SB. Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Nutr Rev. 2001 May;59(5):129-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2001.tb07001.x. PMID: 11396693

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