“The fact that a taste of chocolate can provoke a wild lust for more chocolate, or that once cigarette renews the addiction, does not mean that the presence of chocolate or nicotine in the blood creates a craving. Rather, it is that an organism in an unstable state perceives the availability of something which promises to partially restore the desired stability.”
— Dr. Raymond Peat, PhD
I’ve touched upon Dr. Peat’s research in blood osmolarity, and I hypothesized that under the influence of prolactin, the body craves starch due to its nutrient density (carbohydrate in particular) and low water content. People prefer hot food in the winter, often cooked starches, vegetables, meats, dairy, hot coffee, and creamy desserts. In the summer, people frequently drink cold liquids, often sweetened, so they end up with greater preferences for “lighter dishes” with more water content, such as dairy, fruit, and juices, sweetened teas and coffees, and so on.
Seasonality, of course, offers greater amounts of fruit during the summer (or year-round in places with tropical climates), and ruminant animals tend to store up fat toward the tail-end in summer (as with the grizzly bear who gorges on berries in preparation for hibernation). Although we should remain skeptical of the Paleotarian justification for eating copious amounts of animal fat year-round, the beginning phases of winter in temperate zones demanded a certain degree of caloric abundance, which appeared in the subcutaneous fat of many animals, particularly ruminants.
If we think of consciousness as a reflexive function for the benefit of the body, then cravings become a valuable directive for the betterment of the organism. The introduction of toxic foodstuffs can interfere with the pathology of the craving, so it’s important to incorporate our understanding of the body with our imbibed attraction toward particular foods and behaviors. A complete rejection of a craving, however, ignores a physiological requirement.
Protein cravings surface after long extended periods of fasting or chronic undereating, but most cravings pursue sugar, salt, fat, and starch. The craving for salty, fatty foods often stems from a salt craving. As mentioned, the winter diet gravitates more toward foods of lower water content, and the inhibition of thyroid function from the cold temperature slows digestion and amplifies the inflammatory effects of consumed starch. At the same time, cells cannot retain their function without properly regulated osmolarity, so the body prefers the inflammation caused by starch over either starvation or cold, liquid foods.
Disgust succeeds overconsumption. Melons, particularly watermelon, a food of notably high relative water content, does not provoke the degree of disgust following satiety compared to a starch, such as potatoes. The disgust reaction relates partly to the caloric density of the consumed food, where the calorically-dense potato can have deleterious effects if overconsumed compared to the watermelon; moreover, disgust may be thought of as a reaffirmation of the biological preferences inherent within the organism. Smokers who take bupropion as a smoking cessation aid find the smoke of cigarettes abhorrent. Whereas the distaste for smoke acted previously subservient to the craving for nicotine, the addition of bupropion (which acts on similar pathways in the brain as nicotine and lowers brain inflammation), substituted for nicotine as an adaptive substance and, therefore, rendered the nicotine craving secondary to the distaste for cigarette smoke.
Similar to the interaction of the craving for nicotine and distaste for cigarette smoke, the craving for starch involves the physiological need for a food of sufficiently low water content. In place of a restraint to engage in “stress eating” or to consume “comfort foods,” it would be more fruitful to inquire as to the conditions that prompt this pleasure-seeking behavior, and to remedy the antecedents appropriately.