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What You Can Learn From Your Cravings

If you crave salt: You may need some stress relief. Your constant search for a salt fix could signal that your adrenal glands, which pump adrenaline and other hormones into your blood when you’re feeling anxious, have been working so hard that they’re temporarily exhausted. “The adrenal glands produce a hormone that holds sodium in your body, so if they’re not making enough of that hormone, you may crave salt,” says Susan Blum, M.D., the founder and director of the Blum Center for Health, in Rye Brook, New York. To keep stress in check, try exercise, meditation, or just saying no to yet another PTA request.

If you crave fat: It’s well-known that eating sweets and simple carbohydrates can lead to the infamous sugar crash that leaves you craving more. Consuming fat has a similar self-perpetuating effect, says Sarah Leibowitz, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurobiology at Rockefeller University, in New York City. “Eating fatty foods stimulates the brain to produce peptides that make you crave more fat,” she says. A recent study at the Scripps Research Institute, in Jupiter, Florida, showed that rats who were fed high-fat foods (bacon, icing) began eating more and more—a hallmark of addictive behavior. (They actually refused nutritious food when it was offered.) Fight the urge for chips by eating plenty of lean protein and low-fat dairy products, which will help you feel more satisfied.