Woman about to eat cake

Junk food cravings happen to the best of us, and they always seem to strike out of nowhere: One minute you’re enjoying a tasty dinner, the next you’re foaming at the mouth for something sweet (or salty, or carb-filled). Before you start feeling guilty (“I’m having an affair with cake!”), your junk food cravings are your body’s way of telling you it’s lacking important nutrients.

Below is a guide to help you decode your junk food cravings and healthy foods to replace them with:

If you’re craving chocolate…

Your body may be lacking magnesium, which is a mineral present in more than 300 chemical reactions that keep your body working properly! To say magnesium is important is an understatement. If you find yourself dreaming more about chocolate than your beau, add leafy greens, nuts, seeds and fish to your diet.

If you’re craving sweets…

Your body could be dehydrated, but if after you sip some water you find your junk food craving’s still going strong, don’t jump for the cookie or chocolate bar. Instead, eat fruit for an instant (and natural) sugar fix. Sugary foods can also signal a lack of chromium, carbon, sulfur or tryptophan. Add more foods like chicken, cheese, broccoli, and nuts to your diet.

You might also be overtired: I found that once I focused on a healthier sleep pattern, I stopped focusing on stuffing my face with junk food.

If you’re craving caffeine…

Your body could need iron. Add more chicken, turkey, eggs, and spinach to your diet. A caffeine craving could also mean you’re super dehydrated. If you find yourself perpetually glued to your coffee mug, try having a glass of water beforehand to see if your craving disappears.

If you’re craving salt…

I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t craving salt, and no wonder – table salt is robbed of trace minerals as it’s processed. Once I switched to sea salt, it made all the difference. Also, you’ll want to add more seeds to your diet such as pumpkin, sunflower and flax to increase your mineral intake.

If you’re craving red meat…

Red meat could signal you’re low in iron, so chow down on leafy greens (like spinach and kale), and add more vitamin C to enhance how your body absorbs the iron. When you crave protein, your body isn’t speaking in code: It simply wants more protein. Eat more chicken and fish, add more green vegetables to your diet, and protein smoothies are a solid alternative when you’re on the go. Keep nuts and seeds on hand for a protein-rich snack.

If you’re craving carbonated drinks…

Believe it or not, if you’re constantly drooling over Pepsi, your body’s lacking calcium. Increase the amount of dairy products in your diet (milk and yogurt, for example), and throw in some leafy greens like spinach and kale for good measure.

If you’re craving fatty foods…

Your body’s begging you for more calories. Obviously, the key is to focus on healthier fats, such as avocados, almonds and coconut oil, as opposed to yelling into a hideous drive-thru speaker.

How often do you experience junk food cravings? Do you have a junk food ‘kryptonite’?

Related on Organic Authority:

3 Natural Ways To Beat Sugar Cravings

The 4 Most Common Reasons Why You Crave Sweets

Why You Crave Comfort Foods (And What to Do About It)

Image: Dominik Golenia