Here's Why You Crave Junk Food When You're Sick (And What To Eat Instead)
You ever wake up and instantly feel like you want to crawl into a hole and die? It feels like your skin is crawling; your muscles are atrophying, and even the tiny hairs on your arm hurt?
Well, congratulations, you probably have the flu.
I succumbed to this horrific and complete meltdown of all bodily function on Wednesday morning with no real hope of even finding the energy to turn on an episode of "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." (OK, I totally found that strength; I needed to know what happened at Erika's dinner party.)
And even though I felt like I kind of needed to ralph all over the place, oddly, I also craved the weirdest combination of food. All of a sudden, I really wanted some ice cream, chips and tomato soup.
It got me thinking, is it just me, or are weird food cravings a part of being sick? Here's what I found out in my fever-induced haze.
It's all in your head.
According to the very little amount of research and expert opinions online about why I wanted a cheese pizza and not a healthy salad while ill, my bizarre cravings had nothing to do with my body and everything to do with my mind.
Answering a Quora thread, Joe Selby, a certified precision nutrition coach, says,
You crave junk food when you feel under the weather for the same reason I want to watch the original Star Wars - because we feel crappy and want to feel better.
I don't care. This is what I really want to be doing:
But it's a really bad decision to give in to those cravings.
According to WebMD (everyone's favorite faceless Internet doctor), giving in and eating all the crap you want will only make you feel sick for longer. The article adds,
Research suggests that eating foods that are low in nutrients but high in sugar, refined starches and saturated and trans fats can hamper the immune system.
The site suggests avoiding every single good thing about living including alcohol, sugar, spicy foods and dairy.
UGH, FINE. If I can't eat everything I want to at least make myself feel better emotionally, what can I eat?
If you've got a tummy bug and you're heading to the bathroom a lot, try the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. It keeps things going in the right direction and keeps you hydrated in the process.
If things are coming up the other way and you're feeling nauseated, a salty snack will always help. The salt helps to calm stomach acids, according to Health. Also try peppermint or lemon tea.
If you're like me and your entire body feels like it's about to fall into a black hole, you're going to want to reach for foods high in calcium and magnesium including nuts, seeds, fish, bananas and dark chocolate (even though dark chocolate is like the worst of all chocolates, at least it's something).
If you have a killer headache, it's all about drinking water, water and more water. According to The Huffington Post, you may be able to prevent future headaches by eating copious amounts of spinach, watermelon, caffeinated beverages, potatoes and fatty fish.
So there you have it: My dinner will be tea, plain potatoes, a side of walnuts and sadness.
Here's to your health and happiness!