5 Types of Food Cravings Decoded By an RD

Find out what your food cravings may be telling you.

By: Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC

Do you ever find yourself needing something sweet or salty? Food cravings can appear when you least expect them. Yet, while they may seem random, the types of food cravings you may be experiencing may actually be telling you something about your body. The good news? Once you know why you are craving certain foods, you can do something about it. 

What Are Food Cravings?

Whether you are craving salty chips, sweet gummies, or something else, your desire for that specific flavor or food is likely triggered by either a physical or an emotional factor. 

Physical reasons that can trigger a craving include pregnancy, a hormone deficiency, exhaustion, your mood, and a nutrient deficiency. On the other hand, an emotional craving can be due to factors like stress, boredom, and even location (like craving a candy apple when you are at a carnival or a bag of peanuts when you are attending a baseball game). 

Regardless of whether your craving is due to an underlying condition or a simple desire to enjoy something peppermint during the holiday season, knowing what is causing your craving can empower you to know what to do about them. Ahead, five types of food cravings and what exactly they may be telling you. 

5 Types of Food Cravings Decoded 


If your inner chocoholic is paying you a visit, your body could be in need of a mood boost.  Since chocolate consumption is linked to improved feelings of calmness and contentment, that chocolate craving can mean so much more than just needing something sweet. 

If you are a female, craving chocolate may also be a sign that you are close to getting your period. Changes in hormones during the premenstrual phase can trigger blood sugars to dip, resulting in certain cravings. A chocolate craving can simply mean you are close to that time of the month.  

While chocolate does offer some nutritional benefit — like being a natural source of magnesium — certain varieties can be loaded with sugar. When tackling the chocolate attack, choose a small serving of dark chocolate or add some natural cacao powder to your smoothie instead of downing a king-size candy bar. 

RELATED: The 7 Best Foods For A Better Mood + 3 Recipes


 If you can see yourself downing a loaf of bread or an endless bowl of pasta, your carbohydrate craving may be telling you something about yourself that you may not even realize. 

According to data published in the journal Obesity Research, larger amounts of carbohydrates consumed is linked to higher levels of serotonin (the happy, feel-good hormone). In other words, your body may need that serotonin boost and knows it will happen after you enjoy that extra-large soft pretzel. 

If you find yourself craving carbs more often than normal, ask yourself how you are feeling emotionally. What you may actually be craving is a mood boost, which can be accomplished in a healthy way with a sweaty exercise sesh or a chat with a good friend.


 If you have a “salt tooth” instead of a “sugar tooth,” you may be suffering from an iron deficiency. Iron is an important mineral that plays a role in blood cell production and other important bodily functions. Having a deficiency means that you don’t have enough iron in your body, and you can feel tired and weak. 

The first step to learning whether you have an iron deficiency is to have your health care provider check your levels. 

Another cause of salt cravings is good old fashioned dehydration. When you crave salt, your body may be telling you that it needs to restore balance and replenish electrolytes. Before you reach for the salt shaker, hydrate yourself first to see if that tames the craving. 


Sugar cravings are quite common and can strike at any time of the day. If you find yourself reaching for the candy drawer more frequently, it may mean that you are tired, stressed, or hungry. Essentially, your body is craving sugar for the energy boost. 

Before you down that box of gummy snacks, recognize if you skipped breakfast this morning, didn’t sleep well, or are experiencing stress in your life. If you say yes to any of these questions, your sugar craving may be telling you that you need to tackle one (or more) of these factors. Go to bed a bit early, have a healthy snack, or incorporate some yoga into your daily life. Your body will thank you for it. 


Whether it is melted on a slice of pizza or enjoyed on top of a cracker, cheese is a commonly craved food for many.  

If you are craving that ooey goodness, your body may simply be craving some comfort. Since dishes like mac and cheese and grilled cheese are the ultimate comfort food, you may associate the “warm and fuzzies” with these goodies. 

Cheese and comfort go beyond nostalgic reasons. All varieties contain the amino acid tryptophan, which aids in the production of melatonin and serotonin to help us feel more relaxed or sleepy. A study published in 2016 brought to the forefront that lower levels of tryptophan were linked to a depressed state. So, a boost of tryptophan may mean a more relaxed and better rested self!

RELATED: The 6 Best Weight-Loss Friendly Comfort Foods 

Use Your Cravings To Your Advantage

Cravings can come out of left field. Some are completely random, and others can be a great indicator of bigger things going on in your body. 

Understanding why you are craving foods can help you navigate your health more mindfully. If you have a hankering for a hot dog simply because it is a summer holiday and you are among friends, giving in to your temptation is oftentimes a-ok — your craving isn’t necessarily an indication of something else going on. But if you are finding that you have an insatiable taste for salt, sugar, carbs, or otherwise, there may be a bigger issue at play that is worth exploring.