If you’re craving chocolate, there’s probably more than just the particular taste that your body desires. An absence of essential vitamins and minerals in our diet often attracts us to unhealthy foods.

Let’s take the craving for oily snacks or fatty foods. What you are probably missing is calcium in your diet. Now calcium, in addition to building and strengthening bones, has cooling and relaxing properties, according to Chinese medicine. So a calcium intake is also used to treat insomnia, nervous anxiety and overheating conditions. Mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, kale, legumes, dairy and sesame seeds are rich in calcium. A deficiency in calcium could also find you addicted to pop and other carbonated drinks.

If you’re a self-professed “chocoholic” or “chocolate-lover”, you most likely need more magnesium in your diet. Magnesium is not only valuable in increasing calcium absorption, but also known to relax muscles including the heart muscle, reduce muscle cramps and spasms, calm nerve function and harmonize mental and emotional imbalances including depression and sleep disorders. Most refined foods lack magnesium. For example, only 8% of magnesium remains after the milling of wheat berries into white flour. Foods with high magnesium content include seaweed, legumes, whole grains particularly buckwheat, millet, wheat, corn, barley and rye; as well as nuts and seeds especially almonds, cashews, filberts and sesame seeds. Chlorophyll rich foods or green vegetables are also good sources of magnesium.

General overeating could also be a result of missing vital nutrients. An increase of silicon, L-Tryptophan and L-Tyrosine in your diet could alleviate over-eating.

Silicon, found in plant fibre, is essential for calcium absorption. It is an integral part of all connective tissues of the body including blood vessels, tendons and cartilage. To get more silicon in your diet, include more whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits in your diet. Lettuce, parsnips, buckwheat, millet, oats, brown rice, strawberries, cucumber, dandelion greens, celery, apricots and carrots are rich sources of silicon. Silicon rich foods containing chlorophyll also help balance sweet foods. Excess sweet products, even if they are good quality products like honey, rice syrup or even fruits, can inhibit calcium absorption and promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria and candida-type yeasts.

Amino acid L-tryptophan is known to calm the mind, promote sound sleep and relieve depression. Tryptophan rich foods include meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, walnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and spinach.

L-tyrosine is an amino acid that helps in the production of neurotransmitters, the brain chemical that regulates feelings, emotions and mood. L-tyrosine also improves important brain functions like memory, learning, concentration, and retention as well as increases metabolism and energy. L-tyrosine is also naturally present in protein rich foods like dairy products, fish, meats, oats, wheat as well as orange, green and red fruits and vegetables.

If you’re trying to find out more about food cravings and what you might be missing, a convenient first stop might be this website.  It suggests how cravings for sweets, salty foods, coffee, tea, alcohol, drugs, tobacco and more could be alleviated by choice healthy foods.

However, a more in-depth resource to help reclaim nourishment in your diet is Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford. This book examines whole foods and their effects on our body with insights from Asian traditions in addition to Western knowledge. It also offers simple recipes to achieve a balance as well as variety in your meals.

Personally, I lean towards making dietary changes with whole foods rather than use supplements to fill the gap for the missing nutrient. Vitamins in whole foods are organized into extremely subtle and complex patterns composed of many nutrients. Supplements are useful for rectifying imbalances in the short term in consultation with a health care professional. In the long run, eating real foods gives your body more nutrients and is less expensive than using supplements.

So next time you’re craving for chocolate, maybe you should consider some green lettuce instead! Or Kale Chips?