Some people get derailed by sweet cravings. But for others, it’s the salty junk foods that throw them off their health kick — pretzels, crunchy chips, big slices of pizza with extra pepperoni and extra cheese… are we the only ones drooling?
What’s more, you might actually be physically craving salty stuff without even realizing it; lots of foods are very high in sodium, even though they don’t taste “salty.” If you’re hankering for cookies or corn flakes, it might actually be about the salt and not necessarily the sugar.
Our bodies, however, rarely do things for no reason at all. So what makes our salt cravings so powerful? What is our body trying to tell us when we’re craving potato chips? (Hint: it’s not a potato chip deficiency)
You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers! Read on to learn everything you need to know about salt cravings.
What is a Salt Craving?
Our cravings for salt run deep. It’s our main source of sodium, which is an important mineral and electrolyte that helps maintain fluid levels in our cells, helps our nerves to send messages throughout the body, and keeps our muscles working efficiently — that, and it’s pretty tasty!
Salt usually is always the first thing we reach for when we want to really bring out the flavors in our food. But it’s also been firmly established that too much of the stuff can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of developing heart disease, kidney failure, or stroke.
While most of us understand the risks of a diet high in sodium, many of us continue to reach for the salt shaker — and for processed and other canned foods that are loaded with more salt than we probably realize.
You see, our salt cravings are, in part, controlled by a small area of the brain known as the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is responsible for producing hormones that dictate our instinctive needs, from sex to sleep to hunger.
While it’s true that our bodies require some sodium, experts say that intense salt cravings go back to prehistoric times: salt — believe it or not — used to be scarce, so the brain developed a rewards system that encourages a person to seek it out whenever possible. Why? Because it was necessary for survival back then.
When salt was consumed, our brain sent the message to repeat the behavior. Today, that hard-coded drive remains.
Why Else Do We Crave Salt?
In addition to being apart of our survival back in the day, there are a few other factors why we get a hankering for salt:
- Stress. It’s probably safe to say that we’ve all experienced a little bit of stress eating at one point or another. Believe it or not, stress eating has everything to do with our hormone levels (go figure). When your body is under stress, it releases cortisol and other hormones. Researchers have linked too much cortisol to food cravings — and when we’re craving food, it’s usually salty food. Thankfully, you can combat the stress with the Less Stress Kit from Love Wellness — it’s a kit of targeted supplements scientifically paired together to keep you calm and resting peacefully at night while supporting digestion for overall bliss.
- Dehydration. A constant craving for salty stuff may be a surefire sign that you’re dehydrated. Why? Because sodium is a natural electrolyte that helps to balance the fluid levels of our cells — that’s why. Your body requires a certain level of fluids to function properly, and when those levels fall below normal, you may start craving salt, which is your body’s natural way of encouraging you to drink more H2O.
- Electrolyte imbalance. The fluids in your body carry critical minerals. These minerals help your body to function properly. Sodium is one such mineral. If these minerals (a.k.a. electrolytes) aren’t balanced, you could show symptoms, including headache, fatigue or loss of energy, confusion, and mood changes, as well as an increased craving for salt. To make sure your body gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep salt cravings at bay, consider taking an awesome multivitamin like Daily Love from Love Wellness. Daily Love contains 100%+ of a wide variety of basic vitamins and minerals for women’s health — the things that keep our bones strong, mind clear, and blood pumping! Daily Love is made to correct any deficiencies, and whatever your body doesn’t need, it will get rid of naturally. Simple.
How Much Sodium is Recommended Each Day?
According to the CDC, a whopping 90 percent of Americans eat too much salt. On average, an adult in the U.S. eats more than 3,300 mg of sodium a day.
The recommended amount for adults should never exceed 2,300 mg a day, or about one teaspoon of table salt.
Nine out of ten adults are consuming too much, and that excess can have a lasting impact on our overall health. Yes, your body does need some sodium to maintain the right balance of fluids, but only about 500 mg per day is needed.
What Happens If We Have Too Much Salt?
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), consuming salt in excess may put you at increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, kidney disease, kidney stones, stomach cancer, and increased water retention, which could lead to uncomfortable belly bloat, puffiness, and weight gain.
Bottom line — too much of anything is never a good thing, but this is especially true when it comes to salt. Always read nutrition labels and never exceed 2,300 mg of sodium a day.
How Can I Reduce My Salt Cravings?
Cutting back on salt, over time, will help you immensely to reduce your hunger pangs for salty treats. Though your brain may still send out the occasional signal that it wants salt, it can be satisfied — and your body can function efficiently — with far less than what we typically consume on any given day. You’ll also start to retrain your taste buds, making food that once tasted good to you seem too salty for your liking.
Try these tips to help reduce your salt intake:
- Read food labels. Don’t just look for sodium on an ingredient list. Processed and packaged foods often contain hidden sources of salt that you need to look out for. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking powder, baking soda, disodium phosphate, sodium nitrate, and sodium alginate are all sources of salt that are less obvious than just seeing “sodium,” but they’re salt nonetheless.
- Spice it up. When you’re cooking at home, use spices and herbs instead of salt to add a little extra pizazz and flavor to your food without adding extra sodium.
- Skip the condiments. Ketchup, relish, mustard, and many different tasty sauces all contain high amounts of sodium. Opt for diced cucumbers or a fresh tomato slice instead.
- Don’t get fooled by different salts. Contrary to popular belief, sea salt and kosher salt contain roughly the same amount of sodium per teaspoon as good ol’ table salt. There’s a lot of misinformation on the web that these different types of salts are better for you, but the truth is that salt is salt, and switching to one of these won’t make the slightest difference in your sodium levels.
- Be wary of salt substitutes. Some common salt substitutes actually contain some salt, and if you use one too many bags in an attempt to get that super-salty flavor, you may end up with more sodium than if you had just used a dash of salt, to begin with.
A Final Word
So, what’s a salt craving, you ask?
When you have a salt craving, you have an intense desire to consume salt — and that’s not necessarily always a bad thing! Sometimes when we crave salt, it’s our body’s way of telling us that we’re dehydrated or we’re not consuming enough minerals and to go pop a multi like Daily Love.
However, other times, we crave salt simply because we like — and want — salt.
Although salt is extremely important for our bodies to function properly, the truth is that we only need 500 mg a day — most adults are consuming five to six times that amount. A high-sodium diet can lead to many health complications down the road, and in some cases, it can even be fatal.
For optimum health, consume less than 2,300 mg of salt a day. Choose healthy food options like fresh fruits and veggies and do your best to consume eight to ten glasses of h2O a day. Take a great multivitamin like Daily Love and get outside for some fresh air and vitamin D.
Curious what else your body is trying to tell you? Take the Love Wellness Quiz to get matched to your perfect supplement!