Why Am I Craving Beef? 8 Reasons for This Intense Urge and What You Can Do About It

Craving beef or red meat is very common. You may find yourself frequently desiring a juicy steak or burger even after just eating a heavy meal. While occasional beef cravings are normal, an intense and uncontrollable urge for beef could indicate an underlying issue.

Here are some potential reasons why you may be craving beef and tips on dealing with this intense urge in a healthy way:

Iron Deficiency

Red meat cravings often occur due to an iron deficiency. Iron is essential for forming red blood cells and transporting oxygen. A lack of iron can make you feel tired, weak and prone to infections.

When your body lacks iron, it triggers cravings for iron-rich foods like red meat to replenish this mineral. Beans, legumes and dried fruits are healthy meat-free alternatives that can provide iron.

Inadequate Protein

Beef is high in protein, which is an essential nutrient for building and repairing muscles. An inadequate protein intake signals your body to crave protein-rich foods like beef.

To curb beef cravings, include good vegetarian protein sources like lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, dairy and eggs in your diet.

Zinc Deficiency

Zinc helps boost immunity and promotes cell growth and healing. Meat is rich in zinc, so zinc deficiency can lead to intense beef cravings.

Add zinc-rich vegetarian foods like pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, oats and nutritional yeast to your diet.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal foods like beef. Vegans and vegetarians are at a higher risk of B12 deficiency, which can cause mood changes and odd food cravings like that of beef.

If you follow a vegan diet, take a B12 supplement or consume vitamin B12 fortified foods to prevent deficiency.

Lack of Saturated Fats

Beef contains saturated fats that provide taste, texture and flavor. Your taste buds may crave these fats when you abstain from animal foods.

Use plant-based oils like coconut, olive and avocado oil in cooking to add healthy fats with different flavors to your meals.

Craving Familiar Tastes

If beef was a regular part of your pre-vegetarian diet, cravings could arise simply because your body misses and wants familiar tastes. This is more of a psychological/emotional craving.

Be patient with yourself and understand that such cravings are normal. Keep indulging in satisfying plant-based meals and the urges will pass.

Missing Meaty Texture

Meat provides a unique savory texture. When switching from non-vegetarian to vegetarian eating, your body may crave the hearty meaty texture you are now missing.

Include textured vegetable protein, beans, lentils, mushrooms and jackfruit to add hearty textures to your plant-based meals.

Social/Environmental Causes

Smelling or seeing others eat beef when you are abstaining can trigger cravings. Memories and traditions associated with eating beef can also spark urges.

Avoid situations that may promote beef cravings if possible. Quickly distract yourself when cravings hit to make them pass faster.

Tips to Handle Beef Cravings

Here are some tips to satisfy your beef cravings in a healthy way:

  • Don’t restrict or vilify cravings – Allow yourself grace and understand occasional cravings are normal. Forcing restriction often increases urges and chances of binging later.

  • Stay hydrated – Drink water or herbal tea to fill your tummy and prevent false hunger. Dehydration can also cause food cravings.

  • Eat balanced, frequent meals – Include protein, fiber and fat at meals to promote satiety. Eat every 3-4 hours to stabilize blood sugar and minimize urges.

  • Plan meat-free meals – Prepare satisfying vegetarian meals so beef alternatives are readily available when cravings strike.

  • Distract yourself – Go for a walk, call a friend or engage in a hobby to take your mind off the craving. Urges often pass within minutes.

  • Eat a small portion of beef – If the craving persists, have a small 2-3 oz serving of the most ethical beef option to satisfy the intense urge without overdoing it.

Healthy Plant-Based Substitutes for Beef

Here are some nutritious plant foods that can mimic the texture and mouthfeel of beef:

  • Portobello mushrooms – Grilled or baked portobellos can mimic steak. Enjoy in sandwiches, Tacos or burgers.

  • Jackfruit – Young, unripe jackfruit shredded or chopped has a “pulled meat” texture. Works well in curries, chili, etc.

  • Lentils – When mashed, lentils can substitute ground beef in dishes like tacos, burgers, meatballs and chili.

  • Beans – Kidney, black or pinto beans can also replace ground beef in many dishes when mashed.

  • Tofu – Marinated and baked tofu can replicate meaty textures. Try it grilled or in stir fries.

  • Tempeh – Fermented soy tempeh absorbs flavors well and becomes chewy when cooked. Use in skewers, sandwiches etc.

  • Eggplant – Grilled or roasted eggplant slices can provide a steak-like texture.

  • Seitan – Wheat gluten seitan can be flavored in tasty ways and has a remarkably meaty chew.

When to See a Doctor

Consult your doctor if you experience an uncontrollable urge to eat non-food items like dirt, clay or paper. This condition called pica can indicate an underlying medical issue.

See a healthcare provider if beef cravings are accompanied by extreme fatigue, heavy menstrual bleeding or numbness/tingling which may indicate an iron deficiency anemia.

In most cases, beef cravings are just your body’s way of asking for a specific nutrient it is missing. Identify nutritional gaps through cravings and fill them with plant-based alternatives to stay healthy while respecting your values.

Why Am I Craving Meat? Top 3 Reasons


What causes beef cravings?

If you are craving red meat, your body might be telling you that it needs more protein, iron or vitamin B12, which are all key nutrients that are found in meat products.

What am I lacking if I crave meat?

Lack Of Protein In Your Diet A protein deficiency in your body could make you start craving meat. Meat is a rich source of this body-building nutrient. Meat cravings, coupled with other symptoms such as weak and brittle nails, are one of the first signs of protein deficiency.

Why do I want to eat beef?

Beef is a rich source of iron — mainly in the form of heme iron. Only found in animal-derived foods, heme iron is often very low in vegetarian — and especially vegan — diets ( 35 ). Your body absorbs heme iron much more efficiently than non-heme iron — the type of iron in plant-derived foods ( 13 ).

Why do I feel good when I eat beef?

Why do I get a sudden boost of energy after eating beef? Meat is the most complete food you can eat, containing vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fat. If you are eating poorly, such as the standard american diet, the highly nutritious beef may be replenishing nutrient deficiencies to give you energy.

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