Do you ever find it nearly impossible to stop eating potato chips? Or do you sometimes find yourself swinging through the drive-thru for some fries even when you’re not really hungry? If so, you’re not alone. Humans are hard wired to crave salt- and that makes sense, since we do need it to survive, just in much smaller amounts than we typically consume. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic: “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or 1,500 mg if you’re age 51 or older, or if you are black, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.” The average American, however, is consuming more like 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount. According to Michael Moss, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter at The New York Times, and author of SALT SUGAR FAT: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, almost none of that comes from the shakers on our table, it comes from processed food.
There are many reasons you might be craving salt, some indicate a serious medical problem, but often it is simply learned behavior. If you grew up salting your food, it won’t taste as good to you at first to skip the salt. However, taste buds do change, and you’ll soon adjust to less salt in your diet, and feel better too. Here are a few reasons you may be craving salt:
Not enough minerals: Our bodies need calcium, magnesium, zinc and other minerals to keep our systems running smoothly. Many minerals have a salty flavor, so when you get the message to eat more salt, your body is trying to tell you to eat more minerals! You will keep craving salt until your mineral needs are met, which can often be accomplished with a quality multi vitamin and mineral.
Dehydration: Salt performs the important function of keeping water in our bodies for long enough to hydrate our cells. When you become dehydrated, you need a little more salt to bring your electrolytes back in line, and keep retaining the water you need. Exercise, alcohol, and ironically, too much salt, can all lead to dehydration. Make sure to drink plenty of water every day, and extra 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 feel much better the next morning!
Underactive adrenal glands: your craving for salt can be a sign of adrenal gland underactivity, and will be reflected in super low blood pressure. So, even though high blood pressure is bad, low blood pressure isn’t necessarily good. I check my patients for adrenal function to be sure, best done with a saliva test for cortisol levels, and throughout the day. Called an Adrenal Stress Index, you can send away for a kit to test it yourself. I carry one in my website store, in fact, under hormone testing kits.
Old age: As we age, our taste buds aren’t as sharp as they once were. Consequently, food tastes blander, and the easiest solution is to pile on the salt. As long as your blood pressure is healthy, it’s not too bad to use a little salt, but look for a natural sea salt or Himalayan salt that contains other minerals in addition to sodium.
Food cravings of any kind usually signify a deficiency of some kind in your body. It is natural to crave salt, because our early ancestors would have had a much harder time incorporating it into their diets than we do today. Check out my book 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health, for even more ways to break bad habits and addictions, and learn to live without cravings through a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
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