The Real Reason You're Craving Kale

You're driving home after leaving the gym or in the middle of a meeting at work when it strikes. Suddenly nothing in the world sounds as good to you as that particular food you can't get off your mind. As fun as it may be to indulge these cravings, they usually don't just occur randomly.

According to Medical News Today, more than 90% of people experience food cravings. These cravings can be affected by external factors, such as seeing an advertisement, or internal factors, likeĀ hormonal fluctuations. Since the brain regions responsible for pleasure, memory, and reward play a role in cravings, they can lead to eating regardless of actual hunger. While some cravings can lead to overeating or eating comfort foods that may have adverse effects, these aren't the only cravings. Cravings for healthy food can occur as well.

Craving healthy food should work similarly to cravings for a burger or candy bar in that the body or mind tells you that you need it. Since vegetables aren't processed, sugary, or bad for you, you may believe that craving them may mean they contain something you need. "There is very little science-based evidence on food cravings linked to nutritional deficiencies," says Sharon Palmer, author of "The Plant-Powered Diet," in an interview with Prevention. Likewise, a study published in Physiology & BehaviorĀ found that people still have food cravings despite adequate nutrition. So then, what does it mean when you are craving a vegetable like kale?

Kale is packed with nutrients

When the body is dehydrated, it craves water making you feel thirsty (via WebMD). This is an exception to the evidence related to nutrient deficient based cravings. The body needs water to function, and when it's running low for one reason or another, it lets you know. Kale is a vegetable packed with nutrients and a high water and fiber content (per Medical News Today). Its extremely healthy nutritional profile aligned with the need for water could explain why you are suddenly craving it, though it may be subconscious.

Kale is packed with helpful nutrients, like vitamins A, C, K, folate, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, lutein, and zeaxanthin, among others, but only provides 33 calories per cup (per WebMD). So, although you could simply be hungry when craving kale it's not likely that it would be a source of filling food that would come to mind. Otherwise, it's likely that you just enjoy kale or have a memory, emotion, or sense of reward, as mentioned earlier, linked to eating it. For example, if you ate kale as part of your successful weight loss diet, you may subconsciously attribute eating it to looking good or feeling healthy.

Craving kale seems to be a lucky break, health-wise, and an easy fix compared to cravings for a slice of pizza from across town or any specific dessert you have during the holidays. Next time you have a craving, think about the real reason behind the craving.