Why Am I Craving Red Meat?

Published on: April 16, 2023 (Last modified on: April 17, 2023)
Variety of red meats being grilled.

If you cannot stop thinking about eating a big, juicy steak or a double cheeseburger, it may not be just your taste buds going overboard. There are reasons your brain is hyper-focused on red meat, even if it is not your normal go-to food. If you are craving red meat, there can be a few reasons why.

What Is Red Meat?

Before looking at “Why am I craving red meat?” it is important to understand what is considered red meat. Most people think of beef when you mention “red” meat, but it is a nutritional label, not a color wheel. Red meat comes from mammals, not fish, birds or seafood. These include:

  • Beef – steaks, roast, hamburger
  • Pork – chops, tenderloin, bacon, ham
  • Lamb – chops, rack of lamb, rib
  • Bison – ground, steaks, roast

This means if you are craving “the other white meat”, meaning a pork chop or bacon, it can mean the same thing as craving beef. These meats have a similar nutritional makeup and which meat you crave may be based on your personal tastes, not the color of the meat.

Reasons You May Be Craving Red Meat

Most nutritional experts and doctors agree that if you are craving a certain food intensely, it usually means you need something it contains. It is normal to crave tasty foods, but an unrelenting craving is often based on nutrition. Craving red meat may indicate a
nutritional deficiency

You Need Protein
While protein comes in many forms, simply being low in protein in your diet could be the reason you cannot stop thinking about meat. Most humans should be eating 60 grams or more of protein a day, depending on their age, gender, weight and other factors.
Protein is vital for maintaining your muscles, including your heart. If you are not eating enough protein, you can have negative impacts on your health. You may be craving red meat and be tired due to your lack of protein and micronutrients within meat.
Low in Iron
Red meat is certainly not the only source of iron, but it is one of the easiest forms for the body to absorb. Red meat is high in iron and the other nutrients you need to absorb iron. Low iron can also impact your energy levels, a reason you are craving red meat and tired at the same time.

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Zinc Deficiency
Zinc is another mineral that is found in meats and absorbed better than it is from plant-based foods. Zinc helps your body create proteins and aids in the immune system, as well as vision and bone health. Lacking zinc could cause you to crave red meat, but it is also high in seafood and fish.
Low Magnesium
If you often have muscle spasms or cramps, and you are craving red meat, you may be lacking in magnesium. This mineral is important for strong bones and muscles, and low levels can impact muscle function. Red meat is high in this mineral, and it could be the reason for your craving.
Low Vitamin B-12
One of the most notorious deficiencies that occurs when you eat less meat is low levels of vitamin B-12. Meat is the best source of B-12, and the body cannot make this vitamin. Vegans and vegetarians often need to supplement vitamin B-12 as it is hard to get enough from plant-based foods.
Red meat is not the only source of vitamin B-12, but it could be the reason you are craving red meat and tired. Vitamin B-12 is related to your energy levels and metabolism. Other sources include dairy, eggs, fish and seafood. You may notice tingling in your hands or feet if you are low in vitamin B-12.

What to Do If You Are Craving Red Meat

If you are craving red meat, you can give into the craving and eat meat, or choose another protein source like fish, poultry or shellfish. Most of these will give you the same nutritional benefits without eating mammal flesh. However, you may want to consider getting tested for a nutritional deficiency.

It can be beneficial to have a nutritional lab test performed to check for low levels of certain vitamins and minerals. The most common are iron (ferratin), vitamin B-12 and zinc. You may want to have an entire panel completed on various nutrients that you may be missing from your diet.

Nutritional deficiencies can lead to many health issues. While you do not need to eat red meat to be healthy, these cravings may indicate a poor diet or other health concerns that are depleting your body of nutrients. Your doctor can perform nutrient testing to determine if this is the reason for your cravings.
Doctor discussing lab test results with patient.
When you have intense cravings, it should not be ignored. If you wonder, “Why am I craving red meat?” consider evaluating your diet for protein intake and talking to your doctor about nutritional deficiency testing.

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