Lately I've been noticing persistent, intense cravings for food that I don't normally eat (salmon, greek yogurt, eggs, chicken). Whenever I've had these cravings in the past, I would feel really conflicted because I have deep compassion for animals and all beings, and yet I'm a firm believer that cravings for groups of food (in my case, animal-based proteins) may be a sign of deficiency in one's diet. My most recent craving for salmon has been going on for a few months. In the past, there were a few times where my non-vegan cravings were so intense that I *may* have indulged in some non-vegan food, which led to confusion about my own veganism and a lot of self-judgment. Recently, I’ve been feeling confused because I take a vitamin with algal-based omega 3's so I feel like I take in enough of this essential fatty acid to keep fish cravings away.
I value authenticity and this includes my blog and my social media. I sometimes really struggle with honoring my body's non-junk food cravings and being true to my personal ethics of not harming others (animals included). For the past few years (typically in the winter months), I find my body (or mind?) particularly craves heavier protein (from animal sources) and I proceed to spend months vacillating between staying true to my values and rationalizing why I should indulge in my persistent cravings. I also spend time and effort doing research on the best sources of plant-based protein and amino acids, and make an effort to include at least 50-60 grams of protein each day (which based on my weight and activity level meets the recommended requirements--but may not be enough based on lab work and other symptoms).
There are so many reasons why veganism is important to me, to name a few: I don't want to participate in the mistreatment/abuse/slaughter of innocent animals, concerns about the environment and the sustainability of our current factory-farming system, my religious/spiritual beliefs of ahimsa (sanskrit for "do no harm to others"), health reasons, and the fact that I was never much of a meat-eater as a child, I became a vegan at 15, and it just kind of became my natural way of eating.
As a nutrition professional, someone with a master's degree in nutrition, and a soon to be registered dietitian, if someone came to me stating that they had persistent cravings for certain foods (not junk foods, but foods with actual nutrients), I would examine their diet, and then make recommendations. I would also check their blood work (if available), and ask them if they had any symptoms of a nutrient deficiency (fatigue, slow healing, light-headedness, hair loss, brittle nails, etc.). I would never force my own personal beliefs on someone, as most people aren't vegan, and a sure-fire way to make people defensive is to press your beliefs on someone. I would probably recommend that this hypothetical client/patient include more protein in their diet (I would first recommend plant-based protein but if they wanted an animal-based protein, I can't pressure them to be vegan/vegetarian).
I'm not one of my clients/patients, but I have been taking my own advice and eating more protein; however, the idea to just eat what I crave (animal based protein) is met with feelings of guilt and confusion. It seems like this conundrum might just be a part of my life that I'll have to deal with as both an empathetic person, as someone who is well-versed in nutrition, and as someone who believes in honoring body, mind, and soul.
Because the craving for salmon is so specific, and because I know so much about nutrition, I'm thinking that maybe my vitamin with omega 3's isn't enough. I've started including more whole food-based sources of omega 3's that aren't from a supplement. One delicious source of omega 3 fatty acids are walnuts. I was never a huge fan of walnuts, but I do love nut-butters, so I decided to see if I could make a walnut butter, and I was impressed about how it came out. Below is the recipe for my walnut butter creation.
Oh-Mega Chai Spice Walnut Butter
- 1 cup raw walnuts (I used 365 Whole Foods Market brand)
- 1 tbsp. organic virgin coconut oil (I used Trader Joe's brand)
- 2-4 tbsp. chai tea (I used pre-made tea from Oregon Spice brand)
- ⅛ tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tbsp. Vermont maple syrup
Measure ingredients and mix until blended smooth in a food processor. Enjoy, or store in the fridge. To soften, microwave for 45 seconds.
This nut butter makes a delicious addition to oatmeal and tastes amazing on toast. I had it mixed with dairy free cashew yogurt + jam and topped it on my favorite sprouted grain toast. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Have you ever experienced persistent cravings for a particular food/group of food? How did you deal with it? Are you a vegan/vegetarian who struggles with a similar issue? Feel free to share or comment on this post or through my instagram account @vitaminvalentine