Do you find yourself constantly craving certain foods? Chocolates, donuts, pasta, cheese, coffee or maybe wine? If you feel like you’re raiding the kitchen pantry every single day, you might be experiencing food cravings in menopause!
Hey, don’t beat yourself up! We all have cravings from time to time and I know the feeling all too well. I’ve had the longest love affair with licorice and to tell you honestly, it had been a challenge to ward off this craving.
The problem with many of our cravings is that they are often followed by health issues like bloating, weight problems and so on. In my case, licorice shoot up my blood pressure and gave me puffy eyes. But the moment I knew how licorice had affected my health negatively, stopping it became easy. When you see what certain products can do to you, warding them off from your diet isn’t that hard. I’ve managed my cravings pretty well and YOU CAN TOO!
Do you know what’s more interesting? Strong food cravings in menopause are your body’s way of giving you a nudge that it needs something. My licorice craving meant I lacked sodium in my body and that I had to drink more water!
Aside from biology, you can also have food cravings in menopause if you’re emotionally stirred (and that doesn’t only mean when you’re down), bored and lonely. I’ve looked into some of the most common cravings and what they mean for your body!
7 Major Food Cravings in Menopause and Their Nutrient Deficiencies
Let’s demystify your cravings and see how you can curb them with healthy alternatives!
Nutrient deficiency: Magnesium
• Function: Helps in energy production, live detoxification, sugar and fat breakdown, cholesterol regulation, muscle contractions, hormone production and electrolyte balance.
• What it means: Cravings for chocolate, especially dark chocolate, happens all the time and to a lot of people. But this is most common in women before menstruation and even as they approach their menopausal years. The common thing between these two phases? Hormonal imbalances! Chocolates are highly rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps balance your hormones: it metabolizes serotonin (our mood-enhancing hormone), helps produce testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. This mineral also regulates your thyroid hormones, adrenalin, cortisol, insulin, DHEA and human growth hormone.
• Healthy alternatives: Raw cacao, spinach, Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, avocado, nuts, wild-caught fish, sea veggies and a few pieces of dark chocolate is also good.One or two pieces of 80% dark or darker chocolate every day is good for body, mind and well-being.Click To Tweet
2. Donuts, cakes, soda, ice cream and other high sugar foods
Nutrient deficiency: Chromium and Tryptophan
• Function: Chromium metabolizes fats and carbs for energy, regulates your sugar levels, balances cholesterol and stimulates enough insulin in your body. The main function of tryptophan is to balance your mood and reactions. Your body needs tryptophan, so it can produce your happy and calming hormone, serotonin. Tryptophan is also a good amino acid for menopause because it helps ease menopause symptoms like mood swings, anxiety and depression. Dr. Axe has a great article that you can read about the health benefits of tryptophan.
• What it means: Chromium is essential in energy production. When you crave sweets, this may indicate sugar fluctuations. Your body is desperate for energy, so it will tap into the fastest fuel which can give it energy – sweets! However, even if you do eat high-sugar foods, it won’t solve the problem, it will even make it worse. Sugar spikes will only heighten up your cravings.
Chronic stress may also be a cause of sugar cravings. When you’re stressed, you release plenty of cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones stimulate your hunger centers in the brain and block tryptophan and chromium absorption. To satisfy your hunger, the body wants to tap into something that can give you immediate energy and that is through your sweets.
• Healthy alternatives: For chromium, have more onion, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cinnamon, apples, berries and sweet potatoes. Cheese, lamb, liver, seeds, raw cacao, oats, kumara, spinach and raisins are rich in tryptophan.
Dr. Berg talks about the best two minerals for depression and chromium is one of them. See how the mineral can help you in this video [2:29]:
3. Pasta, bread, rice, crackers and other high carbohydrate foods
Nutrient deficiency: Nitrogen
• Function: Helps increase amino acid production and build muscles in your body. It is also an essential component of your DNA and RNA. In addition, nitrogen is important in red cell production because it carries oxygen.
• What it means: Nitrogen is easy to get in the foods you eat. A deficiency is most common in vegetarians whose main staple of foods are vegetables and fruits. Although there are many vegetables and fruits that have nitrogen, they have lesser content of the mineral leading to a deficiency. Since nitrogen is needed for energy and movement, your body will tap into the most available source of energy – carbohydrates. A lack of nitrogen may cause malnutrition because of protein deficiency (nitrogen makes amino acids), low energy and fatigue.
• Healthy alternatives: Mussels, sardines, anchovies, scallops, crab, shrimp, lobster, oysters, Brazil nuts, almonds, spinach, green beans, asparagus and cauliflower.
4. Chips, junk food, fast food and salty foods
Nutrient deficiency: Vitamin B12 and Vitamin C
• Function: Maintain optimum functioning of your brain and the central nervous system. Vitamin B12 and C are also essential in red blood cell production, immunity and DNA regulation.
• What it means: Salty food cravings in menopause are especially common during stress when the hormone adrenalin is released. This hormone triggers the “fight or flight” response. When this happens, your heart rate and blood pressure shoot up and anxiety sets in. Your reflexes, responses and the body in general also heightens their function. When we are constantly stressed, your body also demands more adrenalin because salt or sodium aids in the creation of this hormone. Unfortunately, when that happens, it also depletes your Vitamin B and C stores rapidly because they get flushed out of your body.
• Healthy alternatives: Vitamin B12 rich foods include beef liver, sardines, wild-caught salmon, nutritional yeast and grass-fed beef. Vitamin C-rich foods include guava, kiwi, leafy greens, orange, berries, papaya, mango, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts.
Himalayan sea salt and licorice tea also help with stress and adrenal fatigue.
Dr. Berg explains nutritional yeasts are a complete protein, have most of all the B-vitamins and are loaded with minerals and trace minerals. Get to know more about the benefits of nutritional yeasts here [3:10]:
5. Meat and cheese
Nutrient deficiency: Calcium
• Function: Growth and development of muscles, muscle contractions, movement and hormone production.
• What it means: Fatty and oily snacks help draw out calcium in your bones and in other parts of the body where they are stored. If you have food cravings in menopause for these types of food, it may be possible that your body is trying to desperately tap on stored calcium for usage.
• Healthy alternatives: Broccoli, kale, legumes, mustard greens, or turnip greens. Walnuts, almonds, oily fish like salmon, flaxseed oil and chia seeds are also good sources of calcium.
6. Ice, meat and peanuts
Nutrient deficiency: Iron
• Function: Helps produce red blood cells and energy, boosts metabolism, aids in proper breathing, strengthens the immune system and synthesizes collagen. It is also essential in metabolizing hormones and neurotransmitters.
• What it means: Symptoms of iron deficiency like sore tongue, dry mouth, altered sense of taste, difficulty swallowing and mouth sores are eased by sucking on ice. This reduces the swelling and discomfort. Since it provides you comfort, you will begin to develop a craving for ice. Meat and peanuts are highly rich in iron.
• Healthy alternatives: Bean, legumes, nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods. Vitamin C helps absorbs iron. Beans or legumes with citrus fruits, red capsicums, tomatoes or berries are all high in Vitamin C.
7. Oily snacks, fried foods and other fatty foods
Nutrient deficiency: Omega-3
• Function: Helps in heart function, lowers triglyceride, regulates cholesterol, improves brain and central nervous function and aids in the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and testosterone.
• What it means: Experts say that when you crave oily and fried foods, you might be harboring a pool of toxins in your body. Omega 3 flushes out toxins and neutralizes free radicals.
• Healthy alternatives: Oily fish such as cod, salmon, sardines and tuna. Increase your consumption of olives, avocado, coconut, seeds, nuts and healthy oils.
Other Food Cravings in Menopause to Watch Out For!
In addition to the major food cravings in menopause that we talked about, there are plenty of other cravings. Some are caused by nutrient deficiencies and others from food sensitivities, emotional issues, hormonal changes, certain conditions and chemical imbalances. Here are some of them!
• Sour foods – toxin overload
• Caffeine – adrenal fatigue
• Licorice – sodium/water deficiency
• PMS cravings – low progesterone
• Water – diabetes and Addison’s disease
• Cravings that occur the same time daily – low serotonin
Believe it or not, there are people who crave non-food items like gasoline, chlorine, chalk, plasters, dirt, clay and even animal poop. The reason why this happens is a combination of mineral deficiencies and environmental factors.
During pregnancy, a condition called pica is common. Pica happens when a woman craves non-food items which have no nutritional value. This condition is puzzling to many experts, but they say it may also be caused by micronutrient deficiencies.
What Are Food Cravings in Menopause Anyway?
According to Merriam-Webster, a craving is a “very strong desire for something.” The overwhelming desire keeps hounding you and pushes you to consume a specific food (and sometimes even non-food items).
Many of us confuse hunger and craving, but they’re different. Hunger is satisfied when you eat. Craving is wired into your brain. Even if you eat the food, you are still going to think about it repeatedly. You can stop the vicious cycle if you know what’s causing your cravings:
• Bacterial – also called bacterial cravings (because the bacteria thrive on what you are craving for), is caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria like candidiasis or yeast infection.
• Physical – indulging in food as a form of enjoyment.
• Emotional – fear, anger, worry, sadness and stress can all trigger emotional eating and food cravings
• Nutritional – eating the wrong kinds of food which lead to not getting enough nutrients which the body needs.
Learn more about these causes and what you can do about them in Dr. Hyman and Alexandra Jamieson’s video [6:11]:
Food cravings in menopause are your body’s way of telling you it needs something…a vitamin, mineral, protein, or nutrient to function properly.
Had enough of Dr. Berg? Hope not! Not crushing on him or something, he just happens to have informative and easy-to-understand videos! Here he is again explaining the reasons for different food cravings in menopause and how you can prevent them [6:47]:
Best Ways to Control Food Cravings in Menopause!
Eat a healthy and balanced diet with plenty of leafy greens.
Pick healthy alternatives that I’ve mentioned above!
If you feel hungry in between meals, consume more healthy fats with your diet like avocado, olive oil, salmon, ghee, coconut oil, nuts, seeds and MCT oil.
Instead of reaching for a glass of wine, drink a big glass of water with apple cider vinegar. Wine gives you an attached feeling. If you want to relax and unwind do a little stretching or yoga to get the same feeling.
Stress can make you crave for sweets and carbs. Don’t fight the feeling, instead, snack on fruits like watermelon, avocado, citrus fruits and berries. They have less sugar content, but they’ll still leave you satisfied.
Add cinnamon, clove, cardamom and coriander to your meals. They help kill candida that ups cravings and they also keep your gut healthy!
Use more citrus essential oils every day. These essential oils work on your brain to stop cravings, plus they also detoxify your lymphatic system from toxins which may be causing your cravings!
Have more bone broth! It’s good to take 2 to 3 servings every day in between meals. It’s rich in amino acids, glycine, electrolytes and collagen.
Take Ashwagandha. Some experts call it the best craving buster because it stops stress-related carb cravings and overeating. It’s one of the best long-term foods to stop cravings.
Incorporate chia seeds in your diet. They are called the runner’s food because they can sustain you with energy, are rich in fiber and plant-based omega 3s.
Controlling your food cravings in menopause is more than just changing what you eat or choosing food preferences carefully. You can also practice mindful eating to change your relationship with food. To do that, you may have to gain control of your mind. You can read more about it in Dr. Axe’s article about mindful eating.Just like a building, your body needs the right foundation to stand strong and tall.Click To Tweet
How to Start Eating Healthy to Curb Food Cravings in Menopause!
What you eat can make a huge difference in a healthy menopause journey! Food cravings are common during menopause. Aside from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, shifting hormones, stress, life changes in midlife and environmental factors can also contribute to your food cravings. But you can prevent this by balancing your hormones and eating right!
Food is comforting, and I don’t want to take the pleasure away from you. Think of yourself as a tall building. To stand tall and strong, you need the right foundation. If the design and the materials used are low quality, the building can’t withstand natural calamities like earthquakes.
This is the same for your body. Food, and the vitamins and minerals they contain, are your foundation. They are the building blocks of your body. Nourishing your body with healthy food satisfies it. Remember that when you eat right your food cravings will go away!
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Gita is the founder of My Menopause Journey. Since 2014, she has been supporting midlife women by sharing hard-earned learnings from her own experience. To advance her knowledge, Gita puts a lot of her time and effort into understanding the broad spectrum of women’s health. She immerses in extensive research about the physical, mental and emotional aspects of menopause. Gita believes in the life-changing power of healthy, holistic living — this is where she anchors her message to all women. Learn more about her marvelous mission in About us - My Menopause Journey.
1 thought on “How to stop food cravings during menopause!”
I love this article. I am almost on my menopausal stage and I learned a lot from reading this.