Curb your salt cravings with these sodium solutions!
In this article:
- Is Craving Salt Normal?
- The Possible Causes of Salt Cravings
- Easy Access to Salt Isn’t Helping
- How to Suppress Salt Cravings
How to Tame Your Salt Cravings
Is Craving Salt Normal?
Can’t eat just one salty snack? Are those potato chip cravings just one of many salty desires your body asks for every day?
Welcome to the human race! We are hardwired to crave salt, yet those savory desires can lead to big problems.
You need salt for countless processes happening all the time in your personal biochemistry kit – also known as your body. But, as with many things, when our sodium levels increase, our bodies become unbalanced.
Ever tried following a recipe and accidentally dumped in too much salt? Our blood and tissues, too, have to work to balance an overly salty diet, but we can’t just toss out the soup and start over.
The Possible Causes of Salt Cravings
While our body naturally needs salt to function, intense salt cravings may indicate a more complex problem. There are several possible reasons for the body to crave sodium intensely:
- You’re dehydrated. When your body’s fluid content starts to drop, your body encourages you to eat or drink more by making you crave a salty snack.
- You need more electrolytes. Your body needs minerals to function properly and most minerals taste salty. When you get the urge to eat more salt, your body may really be asking for more electrolytes.
- You’re under stress. When you’re under unusual stress, your adrenal glands release cortisol to try and control it. Heightened cortisol levels and salt cravings are your body’s way of dealing with stress.
- You could be pregnant. Salt cravings during pregnancy accompany other symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. That’s because vomiting and diarrhea lead to dehydration.
- You’re experiencing premenstrual syndrome. Some women experience mood swings as well as a craving for salty and sweet foods before their periods.
Salt cravings can also be a symptom of more serious health conditions like Addison’s disease and Bartter Syndrome.
What is Addison’s disease? This is a rare condition where the hormones produced by the adrenal gland is drastically reduced. Symptoms include fatigue, low blood pressure, persistent diarrhea, mouth sores, and low appetite.
What is Bartter syndrome? This is a condition causing a potassium, sodium, and chloride imbalance in the body. It’s similar to most kidney disorders. Bartter syndrome can vary depending on the onset and severity.
Easy Access to Salt Isn’t Helping
Up until relatively recently in human history, it wasn’t that easy for us to find salt. There were some natural salt flats. People who lived near oceans could scoop up seawater, evaporate the liquid, and scrape up the crystallized salt — all that took time and energy.
To make sure we take enough of it, our bodies and brains were designed to really enjoy the taste of salt. When you eat salt, the brain lights up with little hits of pleasure-chemicals, urging you to keep eating it. But now salt is everywhere, and it’s cheap.
We still need it to live, but we are eating too much. There. I said it.
Most government health organizations tell us we should be eating 2,300 mg of sodium or less a day – that’s less than 1 teaspoon – or 1,500 mg if you’re over 51 years old, African American, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease.
But guess what – most of us consume 8,500 mg a day – more than double the “safe” amount. Most of that comes from processed, pre-packaged food, not what we add to the food on our tables.
So, that’s the warning. And the reality is: We naturally crave salt, it’s easy (maybe too easy) to get, and it’s everywhere.
How to Suppress Salt Cravings?
Cleansing yourself of excess salt won’t be easy, but you can start with a few simple steps. Here are four ways you can begin to unwire your salt cravings and retrain your brain:
1. Ditch the Habit of Adding Salt to Your Food
You may have grown up with parents who put salt on the table and salted their food before even tasting it. It became a habit to add a pinch or dash of salt to most meals. Now, you’re used to salty foods and low-salt foods taste boring or bland.
Sodium Solution: Become aware of your salt habits. Are you salting food before you even taste it? How much salt do you add when cooking?
Try cooking your meals with no salt or a fraction of what the recipe calls for, and then taste at the table. Serve meals with a fresh quarter of lemon and spritz over your food for added zing.
Use freshly chopped herbs like parsley, mint, scallions, or thyme for added flavor and aroma, instead of salt. Add a tiny pinch of salt if you still find you need more flavor.
2. Meet Your Daily Mineral Needs
Our bodies need calcium, sodium, magnesium, zinc, and other trace minerals to stay healthy and power countless neurochemical reactions that manage your blood and hormones. You will keep craving salt until your mineral needs are met.
Sodium Solution: Boost your mineral intake with a high-quality multivitamin, eat more mineral-dense sea vegetables like nori, kelp, and dulse, and eat more super seeds like hemp and chia.
Filling your diet with leafy greens will help you get more minerals into your body and control its craving for salt.
3. Drink More Water to Steer Clear of Dehydration
Sodium works for us by keeping water in our bodies for long enough to hydrate our cells. When you become dehydrated, you need a little more salt to steady your electrolytes, which are mineral salts that conduct electricity in your tissues and retain the water you need.
Exercise, alcohol consumption, and even a high-salt diet can all lead to dehydration.
Sodium Solution: Make sure you drink eight or more glasses of water every day, and more when you exercise.
When you drink alcohol, stay hydrated (and more sober) by drinking one glass of water for every alcoholic drink. You’ll also look and feel better in the morning!
4. Get Your Adrenal Glands Checked to Avoid Adrenal Fatigue
Salt cravings can also be a sign of low-functioning adrenal glands and may show up as super-low blood pressure. So, even though high blood pressure is bad, low blood pressure isn’t necessarily good either.
Adrenaline overproduction can be a result of a stressed-out lifestyle and can lead to adrenal fatigue.
Sodium Solution: If you’re experiencing salt cravings along with low energy and bags under your eyes, get your adrenal and cortisol levels checked by a physician.
5. Satisfy Your Taste Buds with Healthier Snack Alternatives
People accustomed to eating a salty treat or two every day may find it hard to suddenly go cold turkey. Instead of satisfying your cravings with french fries or potato fries, substitute them with healthier options instead.
Here are some snacks to satisfy your cravings without spiking your daily salt intake:
- Air-popped popcorn
- Hummus and peanut butter
- Avocados on sourdough toast
- Cottage cheese on unsalted crackers
These snacks will also help with sugar cravings, and in turn, will control your blood sugar as well.
Don’t forget to download, save, or share this handy infographic for reference:
Check out this video to find out how you can get rid of those pesky salt cravings!
Food cravings of any kind signal some sort of deficiency, either physical (like an under-active adrenal system), emotional (like old family habits), or nutritional (like low mineral levels). Start looking and feeling into your salt cravings and begin to make small changes in your diet and consider having your hormone levels checked to make sure you have everything covered.
Are you noticing more salty foods in your diet lately? If you are, give these solutions a try and let us know how it works out for you in the comments section below!
Editor’s Note: This post has been published on November 3, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.