Your food cravings for meat could mean several different things.
Yes, your meat cravings might mean that you are lacking certain nutrients. Or, you may be on a restrictive diet and simply feel deprived of meat!
Culture plays a big role in food cravings too.
Here are the top 5 reasons you are craving meat:
1 – Your Blood Is Low In Iron
Back in college I got meat cravings but I was vegetarian so I didn’t eat any meat.
As a vegetarian I thought I was supposed to be ‘healthy’ but instead I felt very fatigued.
It turned out that I had anemia, a blood condition when you lack proper amounts of iron in your blood.
My doctor told me to start eating more meat.
After I stopped being a vegetarian and ate more meat, my iron levels returned to normal. My food cravings for meat went down too.
Meat contains lots of iron so it makes sense that if you have low-iron in your blood you’ll crave meat.
And if you are vegetarian, you can also get iron easily from plant sources. For example, dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are high in iron.
2 – You Are Deprived Of Meat
Of course, another reason I craved meat was because I wasn’t eating any meat!
Many studies show that avoiding or not eating a certain food leads to greater cravings for that food.
For example, a 2017 article in Obesity looked at what happens if you restrict different types of food.
The scientists found that if you are on a high-carb diet and restrict meat (and other protein sources) you’ll have a higher likelihood of craving meats.
While there are plenty of people who can eat Vegan or Vegetarian and avoid meat altogether, not everyone can avoid meat without cravings.
If you are craving meat, it could be because you are starting a new meat-free diet and your body feels restricted.
Please note restriction can happen for any type of food craving!
Perhaps you hear that burgers, ice cream and cheese are foods that are bad for your health.
So then you stop eating burgers, ice cream and cheese.
But guess what often happens next? You start:
- craving burgers
- craving cheese
- craving ice cream
Humans want what we don’t have. If you are NOT eating carbs, you’re very likely going to crave carbs.
If you aren’t eating ice cream, you will get a craving for ice cream.
Generally speaking the same is true with all foods. If you go overboard on any type of foods restriction, you’ll get a corresponding increase in food craving.
In bullet point 4 we’ll talk about lacking protein, which can happen as a result of deprivation. This section, however, is about the restriction of meat itself.
3 – Low In Vitamin B12
It’s possible you crave meat because you are low in vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in high amounts in animal products such as meats, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. However, foods that lack animal products do not contain Vitamin B12.
This means that even if you eat those dark green leafy vegetables we talked about earlier for iron, you still could be deficient in Vitamin B12!
This is important to know because Vitamin B12 plays a significant role in the production of your red blood cells and regulation of blood sugar, as well as the proper functioning of your nervous system health.
Unfortunately many vegans and vegetarians may not be getting enough Vitamin B12 because this vitamin is found in animal products.
This is why a lack of vitamin B12 could explain your cravings for meat, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan.
Take a Vitamin B12 supplement! It’s good for your health anyways!
4 – You Lack Protein
The protein hypothesis developed by researchers in Australia hypothesizes that animals strive to get a specific average of protein in their diet.
Specifically, scientists noted that various groups of animals all get around 15% of calories from protein.
When their average levels of protein dropped from 15% the animals would then regulate their protein intake by eating more protein until they averaged 15% again.
Therefore if you lack protein, you could easily start craving more meat.
5 – Culture Factors
So far we have primarily talked about meat cravings from a nutritional perspective:
- Low iron
- Low B12
- Low protein
We also talked about ‘meat restriction’, which is harder to measure in comparison to nutrition and more of a mental deprivation factor.
Even more difficult to measure are various cultural factors that may affect someone.
For example, in North America chocolate is widely reported as peoples’ #1 food craving.
However, a study showed that in Egypt only 6% of young women and only 1% of men reported craving chocolate.
This means that one may get a meat craving but perhaps not because of nutritional factors!
Simply the culture one is a part of can impact different cravings for foods.
Is craving meat a sign of pregnancy?
Interestingly, this means meat cravings may be a sign of pregnancy, but perhaps not as well.
When pregnant, a woman essentially eats for herself and the growing newborn.
This means she needs to eat more protein and consume more iron and B12.
If her blood levels lack these nutrients she could develop meat cravings. And she may also develop cravings because her blood sugar levels are low and she needs more calories too!
However, point 5 above shows how her craving could be culturally induced:
A woman who is pregnant might expect from a cultural perspective that she should crave meat and other foods like chocolate, and therefore she “thinks” her way into craving more meat and/or chocolate!
What Do Your Cravings Really Mean?
If meat cravings can be both nutritional and cultural, what do they mean?
Should you eat more meat? Or just get more protein from other sources like nuts or protein powder?
Or maybe you shouldn’t worry about your cravings because they are all cultural anyways?
Here my opinion:
If you are craving meat, have some meat. Mix in some dark leafy green vegetables for good measure.
Try to enjoy your food. Give it a week or so of eating more meat.
If your cravings go down then you know you were lacking a nutrient.
If you’re still craving meat then perhaps it’s more of a cultural factor, or a subtle fear of deprivation that you won’t get meat in the future.
These deprivation factors are tough, and you are welcome to schedule a chat with me to discuss how food deprivation may be affecting your eating patterns.
What should I eat if I crave meat?
Overall, if you crave meat, as I stated earlier … have some meat!
But hey that’s just my two cents, let me know what you think down below in the comments.