What causes weird food cravings?
January 8, 2011 7:12 PM   Subscribe

What explanations are there for strong food cravings, other than pregnancy or PMS? Specifically, I am having out-of-control lemon cravings.

The chances that I am pregnant are very, very slim, and if I were (and I'm not), it would only be a couple weeks along; too early for cravings, I'm told. Also, I don't really care for lemons. These cravings are absolutely new, but have been constant for about ten days. They are so strong that there are times I literally cannot think about anything else but getting my next fix. Is my body just being wacky, or are these cravings symptoms of something more sinister?
posted by waywardgirl to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could it be you haven't been getting enough Vitamin C?

I haven't heard of Vitamin C cravings specifically, but I have heard of children who weren't getting enough calcium licking whitewashed walls; maybe something similar is at work here.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:14 PM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I wondered about it, but from what I could find, the body doesn't really know to ask for citrus fruit during a Vitamin C deficiency. Also, eating other things with Vitamin C don't make me want lemons any less. And, actually, I am pretty sure I am getting the daily recommended amount. My eating habits haven't changed lately.
posted by waywardgirl at 7:18 PM on January 8, 2011

Here's a detailed breakdown of the nutrients in lemon, in case that might yield some clue.
posted by bunji at 7:21 PM on January 8, 2011

If it makes you feel any better, I spent about a month inexplicably craving raw red onions. I couldn't stand them before, but for that month ate at least an onion a day. I was not preggers, it did not coincide with PMS. I never found an explanation, and I returned to hating them. You are not alone.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 7:22 PM on January 8, 2011

I don't know, but I've had them too (specifically for pomegranates, even nasty sour ones) when I wasn't getting any vitamin C. I don't know that it was actually pomegranate specific. I think I just happened to eat one and my body said "YES! THAT!" when really any vitamin C-heavy food would have done.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:22 PM on January 8, 2011

I've craved carrots, seaweed, and broccoli at different times (not pregnant, not PMS.)

I've always assumed it meant that I needed nutrients that were in those foods.
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 7:47 PM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Unless you have some problem with eating lemons (maybe your teeth are sensitive to acidic foods or you're allergic to citrus or something), why not give in? This seems a lot more innocent than developing an uncontrollable craving for ice cream or chocolate.
posted by Nomyte at 7:52 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Specific appetite?
posted by phrontist at 8:02 PM on January 8, 2011

Have you been exposed to lead?
posted by b33j at 9:00 PM on January 8, 2011

I get citrus cravings when I'm dehydrated.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:26 PM on January 8, 2011

I always crave vitamin C in the winter. No idea why. Totally unscientific. It seems to get worse when I'm coming down with a cold. No valid physiological reason for it. But there you have it.

Linus Pauling claimed that our bodies need far more vitamin C than the USRDA would suggest. But then again he also said that megadoses of vitamin C would cure just about anything, so take that with a grain of salt.

For me it seems to be connected to the seasonal decrease in light levels. I live about an hour south of the Canadian border, and it's quite dark this time of year. (I also supplement with vitamin D about 9 months out of the year.)

I dunno. I just go with it. Vitamin C's toxicity is basically nil. I try to fill the cravings with fruit instead of vitamin supplements because hey, more fruit! Fruit has lots of other stuff in it that's good for you.
posted by ErikaB at 9:29 PM on January 8, 2011

This article has a lot of people in the comments talking about their intense lemon cravings. The only thing is that everyone seems to be preggers and you're not.

I've had times when I've craved salty+sour things, esp pickled green olives. I'd eat something like 7 or 8. I used to think I was low on sodium or something (yeah, right, in today's society?) It comes and goes, this craving, but I'm never able to figure it out.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 10:30 PM on January 8, 2011

Not lemons, but Why Some People Prefer Pickle Juice. I guess you could get a checkup. I crave acidic things frequently and I think it's possible Ive had low stomach acid.

My brother eats whole lemons and will always ask for your lemon wedge if you get one on your drink. The only problem is that apparently it's bad for your tooth enamel.
posted by melissam at 6:55 AM on January 9, 2011

Pica, the urge to eat dirt/clay/metal etc. is often associated with mineral deficiencies, so maybe you have a lemon defficiency. (or vitamin C) I'm all for giving in to this particular urge, unless you took it to some comical extreme, it couldn't hurt.

I often crave citrus and sour things. I find that I crave them the most when I'm thirsty or a little dehydrated, but I've also interpreted them as a craving for vitamin C.

Lemons are a delicious fruit. I personally associate them with lemonade, sunshine and summer. Maybe you'd like a little slice of sunshine this time of year?
posted by abirae at 8:28 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Odd, I have gotten this. Also figs. I get this odd craving for fresh figs, and will eat a pound at a time. And I really don't like figs all that much. I was told by a nutritionist it was a craving for some micronutrient or mineral.
posted by fifilaru at 1:39 PM on January 9, 2011

I have known several females who crave citrus this way. They will cut up entire lemons and eat them. One was an overweight woman in her late 30s and the other was a fit woman in her early 20s. I could not find a correlation other than they were both women. And they both craved salt. They would salt the lemons.
posted by bobber at 9:49 AM on January 11, 2011

Naturopathyworks: Food Cravings
Non-lemon related, but this article might be what you're looking for.
posted by jayne at 11:55 AM on January 11, 2011

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