What It Means When You're Craving Sour Foods

Food cravings can creep up on you, particularly if you're a little hungry and see a commercial for a juicy cheeseburger. Then you find yourself on the DoorDash app, indulging in something tasty. While hormones sometimes factor into your cravings for certain foods, your emotions might also have you reaching for chocolate or potato chips. Sometimes food cravings might mean you're dehydrated or you've developed habits associated with eating particular foods (per Medical News Today).

Different tastes, such as bitter, sweet, or savory, can sometimes give you an indication of what your body needs. Craving savory foods can point to your need for protein, and sweets or carbs could mean your body needs more calories. Although your body doesn't need sour foods such as lemons or vinegar, it might seem strange to crave the sour taste (per The Atlantic). Food researchers still aren't clear on why people might crave sour food, but traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda may give us some clues: These alternative medical approaches see your cravings as an imbalance in the body.

What traditional Chinese medicine says about sour foods

Traditional Chinese medicine says that everything in the world is made up of five elements of energy: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. If you're craving a certain type of food, it's an indication that one of these energies is out of balance. A craving for sour food, for example, could indicate an imbalance of the Wood element, which corresponds with liver and gallbladder qi. If you're feeling stuck and under stress, this might mean your liver qi has some stagnation (per Yinova Center).

Sour flavors calm the body because these foods affect the liver first. The liver regulates emotions, and liver qi can cause insomnia, headaches, or high blood pressure. Eating something sour can stimulate this qi and bring your emotions back into balance. Chinese medicine practitioners like dark vinegar to circulate blocked liver qi (per Renew Health & Acupuncture Clinic). According to Mend Acupuncture, sour foods like sauerkraut, pickles, or kumquats also help your body transition from the cold, sluggish winter months to the growth of spring.

What Ayurveda says about sour foods

Ayurveda, an alternative medicine system that is a sister of sorts to yoga, groups tastes into six categories: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Sour foods stimulate digestion and keep your senses sharp. Certain foods keep your dosha, or personality type, in proper balance. The doshas blend the five natural elements of earth, air, ether, fire, and water into three types (per Art of Living Retreat Center). Sour foods like lemon have heating properties that work well for Vatas, who are associated with air and ether (per Maharishi Ayurveda). A Vata out of balance could have digestive problems, poor circulation, or fatigue, so the heat in sour foods can keep Vata in balance.

On the other hand, Pittas, who are associated with fire and water, will probably feel more aggressive if they eat sour foods. The Kapha dosha is typically sluggish in digestion, so sour foods can be eaten in moderation by Kaphas to help with digestion. According to Ayurveda, eating sour or fermented foods and drinks in excess can make you aggressive or jealous. Ayurveda considers wine, beer, and liquor as part of this sour food group (per Art of Living Retreat Center).