Chocolate. Deep, dark, delicious chocolate. Yesterday, I craved chocolate. I wasn’t even hungry; I had eaten sufficiently to feel full. But I didn’t feel fully satisfied, and visions of sweet chocolates danced in my head. Intellectually, I knew that meant that my body was craving something that chocolate provides, but my body just went for the chocolate bar. I appreciate that chocolate can be healthy in small doses, but a mini bar or little chocolate kiss was most decidedly not what I was all about yesterday. I wanted a king-size version of the treat. It was a “don’t get between me and my chocolate, people!” kind of day. I indulged. I mean, it was organic chocolate from the local health food co-op, so it couldn’t have been totally unhealthy right??!! Well, maybe so, but it didn’t entirely satisfy, as yummy as it tasted at the time.
Let’s begin by noting that I’m a vegetarian–mostly. More accurately, I am a Lacto-ovo-pescatarian, meaning that I eat small quantities of dairy, eggs, and fish, in addition to plant-based foods. I’ve spent long periods of time (years) following this semi-vegetarian diet. I’ve done shorter stints (months) following a vegan diet, eating plant foods only. I’m not opposed to people eating meat, though I think it would do us all good to choose only meats from responsibly and respectfully raised animals, if that’s what one chooses. Meat just doesn’t really appeal to me at all for a variety of reasons, so I don’t eat it. I don’t ever crave meat. That does not mean my body never craves nutrients that meat provides, however.
I occasionally crave chocolate, and that’s quite possibly directly related to the fact that I do not eat meat. Red meat contains iron, copper, and magnesium, as does chocolate. It is very possible that yesterday my body was feeling deficient in those nutrients, and so that hunk of mineral-rich chocolate didn’t stand a chance. Although it was extraordinarily satisfying (albeit temporarily) to chomp that lovely bar of chocolate bliss, I probably could have reigned in my cocoa consumption by choosing a nice spinach salad sprinkled with almonds and garbanzo beans. I didn’t; I chose the candy version of my craving fix, and therefore felt like a slug by bedtime.
One of the things I really enjoy about staying active and working out in general, is that it increases my body awareness, including a stronger awareness of what I’m hungry for, and what I need in my diet. So, why on earth would I ever crave soda pop, potato chips, or chocolate? Because the body needs something those foods provide–or seem to provide–as quick-fix substitute that shuts the craving up for a time. Usually, our bodies aren’t fooled for long, and another craving emerges. We work hard to get our bodies fit and strong, so we really don’t want to screw that up with a bunch of junk food, RIGHT?!
So don’t ignore cravings; acknowledge them. It’s good to listen carefully to cravings, because they are important signals from your body. In our society filled with quick-fix, fast-grab, pre-fab artificially-flavored foods with bright colors and prolific advertising, our interpretation of our bodies cravings can become warped. It’s high time we wise up to what our bodies are really trying to shout at us when we mistakenly hear “FEED ME CANDY!” (Or chips, or soda, or a venti caramel latte with extra whip…). Let chart below help you decipher your body’s cravings language:
Additional web resources on food cravings and nutrition:
Decode Your Food Cravings by Bridget Doherty of Women’s Health on the NBC NEWS.com site gives an overview of general types of food cravings and what they say about your body and about you.
This article on the Livestrong website briefly discusses the difference between physical and psychological cravings, and cravings associated with several specific vitamin deficiencies.
And an article on WebMD geared toward dealing with food cravings.
Celebrate Spring with Beet Soup
The mighty beet: the wonderful red root that provides oodles of manganese, magnesium, iron and a whole lotta flavor oomph in one little bowl.
This recipe is a favorite from my former restaurant, Imagine Coffee House & Catering Co., north of Milwaukee. This soup went up on the menu board as soon as the frost cleared and the first spring beets were harvested. Most often, my organic egg farmers, Harold and Gerta, would show up with a big bag of the lovely red orbs, signaling that spring had arrived.
This soup rounds out the distinctive beet flavors, so even those who don’t like eating beets straight, often enjoy them in this soup. It’s wonderful served hot, but save this recipe to bring out again when it heats up this summer, because it works beautifully as chilled soup, as well.
- 5 pounds beets
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups coarsely chopped yellow onion
- 3 pounds carrots, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced (1 tablespoon)
- 12 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- Also add to soup at the very end:
- ¼ cup lemon juice,
- ¼ cup cider vinegar,
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Sour cream for garnish (optional, but really yummy)
1. With gloved hands (beets will stain skin!), peel the beets with a vegetable peeler. With a chef’s knife, cut the beets in half, then lay them flat side down and cut them into large chunks.
2. In a stock pot over medium heat:
- Heat the oil.
- Saute the onion until it is translucent.
- Add the carrots, ginger, and garlic.
- Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently
3. Next add beets and liquid…
- Add beets and water or stock.
- Simmer the soup, covered, for 50 minutes.
- Add orange rind, and stir well.
4. In a food processor or blender: puree the soup in batches. Do not attempt blending the soup until it has cooled to room temperature, so that steam doesn’t force the lid off and cause a mess (or potential burns–do be careful!)
Adjust seasonings if needed, depending on sweetness of beets.
Transfer the pureed soup to a large pot, and stir in salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot or chilled, garnished with a dollop of sour cream, or unsweetened yogurt.
Note: This soup freezes very well.
- The secret ingredient in new icy road melt treatment (kcci.com)
- Lithuanian Cold Beet Soup (foodelite.wordpress.com)
- 6 Powerful Health Benefits Offered by Beets (naturalsociety.com)