Do you ever find yourself daydreaming about chocolate? Driving miles out of the way to find the perfect juicy burger? Snacking on handfuls of salty chips? Chewing ice? I know the feeling. We all have certain foods that we just can't resist. You might be wondering, what do these wild and sometimes harmful cravings really mean, and what are some healthy alternatives? 

To start, you must understand that cravings and hunger are not the same thing. Hunger comes from the stomach while cravings come from the brain. So, what exactly is your brain trying to tell you?

1. Chocolate: Magnesium Deficiency 

chocolate, chips, chocolate chips, cocoa
Caroline Ingalls

Can't get enough chocolate? Mmhm. Me neither. Craving chocolate is related to a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium increases energy while simultaneously calming nerves and anxiety. Bet you didn't know that raw cacao is one of the highest natural sources of magnesium. Other more nutritious ways to satisfy this craving and get the magnesium your body needs are by eating beans, nuts, greens, fruits, and whole grains.

2. Red Meat: Iron Deficiency

fillet, pepper, pork, beef, barbecue, steak, meat
Joyce Zhan

Grilled steak is one of my favorite foods and don't even get me started on burgers. If you find yourself longing for red meat, you could have an iron deficiency. You might be surprised to know that chewing on ice is also related to an iron deficiency. Other less fat-laden foods that are high in iron are spinach, cherries, seaweed, dried fruits, and legumes.

3. Salt: Chloride Deficiency and Stress Hormone Fluctuations 

sweet, chocolate, condiment, salt
Angela Kerndl

It's not uncommon for me to find my mom munching on salt bagels or movie theatre popcorn. Maybe she's stressed out or maybe it is a chloride deficiency. Either way, it is a habit that should probably be abandoned. Other ways to get the natural chloride that your body needs are from olives, tomatoes, and celery. If your need for salt is caused by a fluctuation of stress hormonesvitamins B and C, greens, and meditation could be the solution.

4. Pasta: Chromium Deficiency 

vegetable, pasta, sauce, rice
Gabby Phi

As a runner, I am always eating pasta. Carbo loading amiright?! A hankering for pasta, white bread, and pastries signals a chromium deficiency. This can be solved by eating onions, apples, cinnamon, romaine lettuce, and grapes. Who knew? 

5. Peanut Butter: Low-Fat Diet, Low-Carb Diet, and Stress Hormone Fluctuations

jar, spoon, peanut butter, chocolate, sweet, cream, milk, dairy product, candy, coffee
Caroline Ingalls

Do you ever find yourself sneaking spoonfuls of peanut butter? Just can't resist the creamy goodness of this magical food? Same. I'll put globs of peanut butter on just about anything. Craving peanut butter could indicate a few things.

First, you may be eating a low-fat diet. Your body is trying to signal that you need more high-quality fats. Or it could mean you're eating a low-carb diet. If it's fat that you're lacking...try eating more high-quality fats like avocados or almonds. If it's carbs you're missing, incorporate things like bread and pasta into your diet. Adding honey or apple slices to your peanut butter could also help.

Finally, craving peanut may be related to stress. Peanut butter contains a compound called beta-sitosterol which helps balance hormones and fight the effects of stress. Hmmm. 

6. Spicy Food: Overheated, Congestion, and Pain Relief 

Spice, Spicy, Market, chilis, salsa, pepper, chili
Dea Uy

Nice and spicy....just the way I like it. Cravings spicy food like jalapeños or chili peppers could mean a handful of things. This may be your body's way of signaling that it needs to cool off. Strange, right? But, spicy food makes you sweat which will help if you're feeling overheated. Consider having a big glass a water next time your craving that lamb vindaloo.

Congestion can cause you to crave spicy food because it helps to clear your sinuses. I know when I'm sick I always put a big squirt of Sriracha in my soup. This fix may only work temporarily, so don't forget to use saline spray to help clear you out. Lastly, eating spicy foods releases endorphins, so you may crave this food when you're in need of a rush. Instead of relying on spicy foods to improve your mood, try meditating for stress relief.

Who knew your cravings could mean sooooo many different things. It's important to pay attention to these cravings because they are the body's way of sending important messages. So, next time you feel the need to grab a late night chocolate bar or a handful of potato chips, maybe you should reconsider and snack on some of these healthy alternatives. Your body will thank you.