While any kind of food craving can be uncomfortable, a fruit craving actually is one of the best kinds you can have. Fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and most people don't eat nearly enough. As long as you don't eat enough to raise your overall caloric intake to unhealthy levels or skip other nutrients in favor of fruit, it's OK to indulge. But it's also important to recognize the cause of your cravings so you can correct any unhealthy behavior while retaining fruit as a normal part of your diet.
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You may be craving fruit for a number of different reasons, including a change in hormones, low blood sugar, dehydration or you simply have an emotional attachment for sweet, juicy fruit that needs to be met.
Food cravings are one of the most infamous symptoms of hormonal change. They are the butt of many pregnancy-related jokes but also can occur during menopause. A 1995 study published in the "Journal of Affective Disorders" even found that food cravings increase in concert with the menstrual cycle, although it is not clear if they are related to physical or emotional changes. Researchers are not sure why hormonal changes cause food cravings, but women do experience a change in their sense of smell and taste during this time, which could explain both food cravings and food aversions. Sweet cravings are especially common, so mango, berry and melon cravings put you in the majority. But cravings for sour or tart fruits like apples and citrus are more rare, making up only 10 percent of the cravings in a 2009 BabyCenter survey.
Low Blood Sugar/Dehydration
If your fruit cravings are occurring between meals, they could be the result of low blood sugar. Fruit is high in a naturally occurring sugar called fructose and your body could be telling you to head for the nearest source of sugar. Although simple carbs and table sugar are more commonly craved at this time, an ingrained healthy-eating habit might not allow your subconscious to see unhealthy food as an option, making you crave fruit instead. The same craving can occur in cases of dehydration — most fruit is very high in water, so if you aren't drinking enough or if you're sweating out everything you do drink, fruit can be a major draw. Opinions differ as to whether cravings have a basis in biological needs, but fruit cravings are healthy enough that you shouldn't feel bad about indulging.
Some food cravings might fit the old saying: "You want what you can't have." These types of cravings usually arise during calorie-restricted diets, with dieters craving high-fat, high-calorie foods, but fruit cravings can coincide with the agricultural clock. For example, if your area had a great strawberry season this year, you might crave them when the season ends. Part of this craving might be force of habit if you ate strawberries frequently when they were available, but much of it can be due to the fact that you just can't get any. The global nature of produce availability might make it easier to get your favorite fruit year-round, but added shipping costs might put it out of your price range in the off-season.
If you have a strong emotional association with a food, you are likely to crave that food when you are really craving the associated emotion. For example, if you associate family gatherings with apple pie, you might crave apples when you are feeling lonely. If you had a fantastic time picking blueberries with a group of friends, you might crave blueberries when you really just miss your friends. These types of cravings are a type of emotional eating. While indulging a fruit craving does great things for your health, it is important to get out of the habit of eating as an emotional response; fruit might not be the focus of your cravings forever, and when the cravings turn to cheesecake, an ingrained emotional eating habit can wreak havoc on your health.
- "Journal of Affective Disorders"; Food Craving During the Menstrual Cycle and its Relationship to Stress, Happiness of Relationship and Depression; a Preliminary Inquiry; Dye L, et al.; June 1995
- BabyCenter; Food Cravings and What They Mean; October 2009
- "The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society"; The Psychology of Food Craving; Hill AJ; May 2007
- "International Journal of Obesity"; Food Cravings and Energy Regulation: The Characteristics of Craved Foods and Their Relationship With Eating Behaviors and WEight Change During 6 Months of Dietary Energy Restriction; Gilhooly CH, et al.; December 2007
- EurekAlert; The Psychology of Food Cravings; May 17, 2010
- The Prevalence of Low Blood Sugar; Benjamin Sandler, M.D.