When I was a kid, some other kids in our neighborhood had a very strange habit. Some of them would lick a certain kind of red brick they would find around the neighborhood while eating a piece of fruit, particularly plums. I found this incredibly strange until I got older and learned about cravings and vitamin deficiencies. The behavior wasn't pica for psychological reasons. They weren't eating the bricks, just licking them to enhance the flavor of the fruit.
What those kids were lacking that drove them to such unusual behavior was a deficiency in iron, iodine, and/or sulphur. By the 70's most households were using table salt because it was cheaper than sea salt, and you just didn't find gray salt anywhere anymore. Add to that the problem of mass farming sulphur depleted soil, and there you have prime conditions for low income kids with vitamin deficiencies despite basically eating a healthy diet.
The problem is that what a healthy diet is, is not a "one size fits all" regime. What you need depends heavily on your ancestry, which many African Americans don't know. If their ancestors come from an area close to the sea, they may need more iodine than they would get incidentally. It may be more crucial for them than others to use gray salt and eat more sea food. Further inland, people would find sources of iodine in mineral deposits and the ashes of plants that contained iodine, or produce it during burning.
The brick licking is just one example of a signal of particular nutritional needs that are normal for certain regions of Africa. There are many others:
Eating straight corn starch during menstruation and/or pregnancy.
You are craving white yams (not sweet potatoes) or cassava. You should find some cassava or tapioca flour, and make some flat bread from it. You can make a Brazilian dish called sagu by soaking small tapioca in wine, and having it with a vanilla tapioca pudding. Alternatively, you should try to find some white yams if you can. These are the kind that look almost like tree bark on the outside, and are pale or white on the inside. That will solve your craving. Eating corn starch is very bad for you and could give you or your baby diabetes. A note on cassava, never cook cassava root at home unless you are very well versed in the traditional method of soaking and fermenting. Untreated cassava is very poisonous, and some people have died because of improper preparation.
Licking or sucking metal.
You are craving iron, zinc, and probably magnesium as well. You should eat more greens and meat.
Craving oily fish a week before menstruation or during early pregnancy.
Have the fish, and spend a little time in the sun. You need Vitamin D and probably some iodine.
You probably need zinc. Eat some meat or yogurt. Some nuts will probably help give you zinc and help with the desire to crunch as well.
Eggs (or other foods) don't taste right unless they were fried in a cast iron pan.
You are just someone who loves iron, and who needs it enough that you notice by taste when that tiny tiny amount is missing. You probably also appreciate the other minerals produced by seasoning a pan.
Having a very strong dislike of white sugar. When you were a kid and others bought candy, you would usually get a packet of cheese, some crackers, or chips, beef jerky, or a sour pickle.
You're just Black to the bone. If your parents and grandparents on back were the same, then just go with it and don't try to change. White sugar is bad for anybody in large amounts, and your tastes might be trying to tell you that it's death for you. So don't press your kids to have sugar either. Just don't keep it in the house for anything but canning and recipes that need it for browning.
Having an ability to tolerate only small amounts of sugar, and when you go over your limit, you get a headache and/or nausea, but you're not diabetic, and neither is anyone in your close family.
See above. Stick to honey, stevia, and palm syrup. You might have problems with sucrose in particular, whether it's refined or not.
Finding the taste of liver absolutely nauseating except when mixed with hominy, then it's one of the best things in the universe.
If this is the case, you might like to try different organ meats than liver such as gizzards or hearts. Your body and taste is telling you that you need it badly, but just have to have it prepared a certain way to be palatable.
Craving Mexican food during pregnancy.
What you're really craving is likely a combination of green vegetables and cumin. Cumin's origin is east Africa, but it became a very popular seasoning along with coriander/cilantro in south and central America. One of cumin's medicinal uses is against morning sickness. Sometimes if one has morning sickness badly, one must avoid any pepper and season their savory foods with a little bit of cumin. It is rumored to help prevent miscarriage. (On a personal note, this seems to have been what worked for me on my 3rd pregnancy.)
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