Proof, Episode 2 Recap: Cravings

Can science explain our overpowering hankerings for a specific food?

Published Nov. 8, 2018.

In Proof, the new podcast from America's Test Kitchen, we aim to solve food mysteries one story at a time. Every episode goes beyond recipes and cooking to investigate the foods we love (such as deep-fried oreos and tiki drinks) and don't love (like once-in-vogue celery and the meteoric rise of the grain bowl); ask the big questions (where do food cravings come from?); and uncover the hidden backstories that feed your food-obsessed brain.


In the second episode of Proof, we enter the world of cravings. We all have them, whether it’s an overwhelming need for something sweet or a bite of one of our grandmother’s specialties. But where do they come from?

Proof, Episode 2


We all get them. Where do they come from?
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Five Things You’ll Learn

1. What Causes Cravings: And the answer isn’t so cut and dry. There are physiological, biological, and psychological components of cravings, and there are also gender differences and memory causes linked to them.

2. The Difference Between Hunger and Cravings: We all know that the former is when the belly lets you know that it needs to be filled, and the latter is a soul-crushing demand to eat this now. You’ll learn the more scientific differences if you listen to the episode.

3. The Most Commonly Craved Food in the United States: Almost every woman in the U.S. and about two-thirds of men say they’ve craved this ingredient. But it’s not as popular a craving outside of America: Only about 5 percent of women in Egypt and 28 percent of women in Spain report this craving.

4. One of the Most Commonly Craved Foods in the NBA: It’s the humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They’re common in locker rooms around the league, and according to ESPN reporter Baxter Holmes, in the past, the Milwaukee Bucks would provide their players with an elaborate buffet of different nut butters, jams, jellies, marmalades, Nutella, and breads.

5. The Chemical Composition of Cravings: Beyond certain foods’ flavor, chemicals like dopamine, caffeine, and cannabinoids contribute to our cravings for them.

Who You’ll Hear From

Every episode features top-notch reporting and a cast of fascinating experts. Here’s the list of sources who helped us get into the science of cravings:

Notable Quotes

“For one, coffee is bitter, which John [Allen] says is usually a signal to the body to spit it out. And two, it requires some kind of vessel for boiling liquid, a feat only modern humans have utilized.” —Jacklyn Kim, on the barriers that coffee had to overcome to become a modern craving

“I count how much coffee I’ve had not in cups but in pots. I have a real REAL problem. There will even be a part of the day where I’m actually afraid that I can’t get to coffee. And you know if we get to the bottom of the beans, I know that we just have a couple tablespoons left, I actually start to have real reaction. There’s a fear that sets in that I’m gonna run out.” —Bridget Lancaster, on her coffee cravings

“...A friend of mine who was pregnant, she craved the smell of cut wood and she would go to Home Depot and just walk around and sniff and it was her pregnancy craving and she was just happy it wasn't, you know, ice cream instead.” —Nicole Avena, on bizarre pregnancy cravings

“The main thing that we found out about this study was this 'double peak'. . . occurring at 7 o'clock at night and 2 o'clock in the morning.” —Nicolas Scrutton Alvarado, on the findings of his and his colleagues’ report on when people search for food (especially pizza and Chinese food) online

What did you think of the second episode? Do you have a food mystery you think we should investigate on Proof? Let us know in the comments! And if you like what you heard, leave us a review on iTunes and visit Proof's website every Thursday for an all-new episode.

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