7 reasons why you always crave salt, and how to keep cravings for salty foods at bay

French fries turn into vegetables

French fries turn into vegetables

Olivia Bar

table of contents

  1. on this page

    • What is the right amount of salt?

    • Why do you crave salt?

    • How to curb cravings

The old question: Are you a salty or sweet food person? There is a time and place for both (and don’t get us started on sweet-And theSalty snacks!) But there’s just something more satisfying about the salty taste of crackers, popcorn, and chips, especially if your favorite low-fat food. It’s not just french fries, dumplings, and bacon either. Nutrient-rich foods can satisfy your “salty tooth” too – consider: edamameAnd the guacamoleAnd the pistachio. Whatever salty sting you chew on, it may feel impossible to stop after just one. But how much is too much?

We have been warned of the dangers of You consume a lot of sugarBut he doesn’t seem to hear much about how to control salt cravings and consumption. What fuels the pain of salty food, does it harm your health, and what can you do about it? We spoke to three registered dietitians, Elicia CartledgeMAN, RD, Brittany PaulsonMDA, RDN, CD, CDCES, Jamie Lee McIntyreMS, RDN CD-N, To get to the bottom of your craving for salt and how to help reduce your sodium intake.

Related: 7 Strategies for Forming Healthy Eating Habits, According to the RDs

What is the appropriate amount of salt to eat?

Sodium is an essential mineral and has its rightful place in the A balanced diet—But we need less sodium than most of us consume in a day.

Taking a look at the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for a nutrient can help you see if you’re overeating, or if there’s room for wiggle room in your eating habits. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans We recommend that you consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. The American Heart Association He agrees, but says 1,500 milligrams or less per day is more ideal.

To put this in perspective, one bag of potato chips contains roughly 150 milligrams of sodium, according to USDA. By comparison, a tablespoon of peanut butter contains about 69 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon USDA.

So how does reality compare to these official dietary recommendations? The Center for Disease Control It is estimated that Americans consume an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, more than 1,000 milligrams of the recommended amount. If you go for salty snacks on a regular basis, you may find yourself giving in to more salty cravings than your body really needs.

Why do you crave salt?

Most explanations for salt cravings are related to your environment or lifestyle, so if you feel like you can’t control yourself about the salty goodies, just know that you Can Do something about this.

Stress pushes salt cravings into high gear.

When you’re confused, stress can significantly affect your appetite. It makes you crave comfort foods because of their effect on your hormone levels. For some people, stress silences hunger signals, while for others it amplifies them. If you’re someone who needs a snack or a tasty meal when you’re drowning in the water, you’re probably part of the latter group whose appetites grow with stress.

“The next time you find that you are craving salt, assess your general stress level,” he says. Elicia Cartledge, MAN, RD, a registered dietitian in Ontario, Canada. “Stress may affect the adrenal glands and their ability to regulate sodium. This can often lead to increased cravings for salt.”

The adrenal glands are responsible for producing and secreting cortisol, a hormone often called the “stress hormone.” During periods of high stress, cortisol may be the driver behind cravings for salt. Stopping stress in its tracks is not something you can do overnight, but you can do it Take steps to manage your stressIt increases your awareness when you’re stressed, so it doesn’t drastically affect your eating patterns.

Increased sweating from exercise makes you lose sodium.

Regular exercise is good for you, and it may also contribute to cravings for salty foods. Sodium is electrifiedWhich is excreted from the body when you sweat (which is why sports drinks containing electrolytes are so popular). “If you exercise vigorously and sweat excessively, the increased amount of sweat may lead to a loss of sodium from the body,” says Cartledge. “This results in your body craving more salt to replace the lost sodium.”

Unless you’re really stressing yourself out, that definitely doesn’t mean you should do less exercise. But you can choose your sodium sources more carefully, and remember to stay hydrated, not just after your workout but throughout the day. Drinking an electrolyte drink after a sweaty workout can help achieve both electrolyte replenishment and hydration. Remember, however, that drinking sports drinks all the time is not the healthiest way to balance electrolytes. The best source of electrolytes is eating a balanced diet full of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables.

Feeling tired makes you hungrier.

When you are deprived of sleepYou may feel that your appetite is not satiated and your ability to ignore a tempting craving is impaired. This means that it is much easier to say yes to that dish than nachos or a bowl of ramen. Like stress, this is the role of your hormones. The hormones cortisol, leptin, ghrelin, and serotonin trigger hunger and prompt you to seek out foods that make you feel good.

“Lack of sleep can affect hunger, stress, and ‘feel-good’ hormones, which may increase cravings for salt,” Cartledge says. “If you don’t get enough rest, you may experience an increase in appetite, and less self-control around Foods you crave, and a general bad feeling due to the drop in serotonin, which can make you eat salty foods like potato chips or French fries. In order to feel satisfied.”

Easier said than done, but do everything you can to get enough sleep every night. adults need Seven to nine hours of sleep every nightaccording to Center for Disease Control.

You are dehydrated, but mistaken for hunger.

Are you Drink enough water or Eat enough hydrating foodsLike fruits and vegetables? If you’re not sure, you may be on the verge of dehydration, which can increase your craving for sodium. Oddly enough, it is easy to confuse hunger with thirst. “If you’re not staying hydrated enough and you think dehydration is hunger, it can lead to salt cravings,” says Cartledge.

Dehydration can also cause an electrolyte imbalance similar to sweating. “This is more likely to occur in athletes or active individuals who experience greater fluid loss through sweat and lack of rehydration and replacement of electrolytes lost after intense activity and sweat loss,” she says. “In this case, the craving for salt is the body’s response to the need to replace fluids, replace sodium, or both.”

Drink water before or during your salt repair to avoid mixing hunger and thirst. Or try a salty, hydrating snack as well, like celery sticks and chickpeas.

you feel bored.

You may find yourself in a routine that can be hard to break, like treating yourself to a side of french fries on the way home from work every night. “If you’re in the habit of eating a salty snack during your mid-afternoon slump or watching TV at night, your cravings can simply be related to the habit or boredom,” says Cartledge. “Salty snacks tend to be comforting, and you may find yourself eating them because they are easy.”

Breaking habits can be difficult—especially when they’re so tasty—but you can put an end to boring snacking by replacing those unwanted habits with new ones. Keep your mind (and hands) occupied with other activities, such as going for an evening walk or folding the laundry. You can also replace high-sodium, processed snacks with healthier options. Nutrient-rich foods can satisfy your “salty tooth,” too – think: edamame, guacamole, delicious oatmeal, or nuts.

You limit yourself too much.

If this isn’t the first time you’ve tried to eat less sodium, you may have set some strict rules on yourself. You may have tried eliminating added salt from your diet. While this sounds logical in theory, too many dietary rules and restrictions can have the opposite effect.

“From a psychological point of view, intentionally restricting foods you once enjoyed leads to you over-focusing on them, and suddenly they’re all you think about,” McIntyre says. “When we try to force ourselves into a strict rule of not eating salty foods, it becomes the central theme of our food thoughts, which leads you to seek it out in the end, and that often leads to overconsumption.”

Set realistic goals. If you set an unrealistic goal, you may feel frustrated if you don’t achieve it. Start slowly and gradually reduce your sodium intake instead of eliminating it. And don’t be afraid to indulge from time to time.

Sodium cravings may have health or biological explanations.

Many of the possible reasons why you crave salty foods can be explained by your control factors. But there are some instances when cravings for salty foods may be out of your control. Cartledge says health conditions such as Addison’s disease and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are possible causes.

“Addison’s disease is a rare condition that occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged and cannot produce enough cortisol and sometimes aldosterone,” she explains. “These hormones play a role in balancing fluid and sodium levels in the body. If the body does not retain salt as well, it can increase cravings for salty foods and snacks.”

Your menstrual cycle can also be a factor. This is due to hormonal fluctuations which, as mentioned earlier, amplify hunger signals and desire for stimuli that make us feel satisfied.

If you think your salt cravings may be due to an underlying health condition, contact your doctor. There may be ways to manage your health that quell your food cravings at the same time.

As far as genetics goes, the jury is still out. It remains a mystery whether some people crave salty foods over sweet foods due to genetics, but this cannot be completely ruled out. “We all have our preferences,” Paulson says. “Genes play a large role in these preferences via our taste buds and taste sensitivity. People who are more sensitive may add salt to their food.”

How to reduce salt intake and reduce cravings

The obvious reason we love salty foods is because they taste so good. The key to keeping salty cravings at bay is to train your taste buds to enjoy the taste of foods without adding too much salt.

“Reducing salt is a gradual process, and it often takes time for our taste buds to change,” says Cartledge. “The more you slowly reduce your salt intake, your taste buds will not be tolerant of the general taste of it, and you may find that your cravings for salt decrease over time.”

Instead of processed, processed foods, which are usually loaded with added salt for flavor and preservation (frozen burritos, microwave crusts, precooked sausages), try remaking these goodies at home. You’ll find that the blame isn’t salt — it’s all the added salt in packaged foods.

When you’re in a time crunch and have to reach for packaged foods, Cartledge recommends familiarizing yourself with nutrition labels and choosing labels that read “reduced sodium” or “no added salt.” Specifically, look for labels that contain 5 percent or less of the daily value for sodium per serving.

Remember that salt is not the only way to make your food good. Flavor your snacks and dishes with an endless mix of herbs, spices, seasonings and lemon juice. You can also choose salt-free seasoning blends to help control how much you end up using.

Prepare High-sodium foods that are a staple in your diet can have health consequences Like high blood pressure, which is a The main cause of heart diseaseaccording to Food and Drug Administration. But as long as you enjoy it in moderation, indulging in your favorite salty meals now and then is totally fine!

Related: The bad news: These 8 foods are among the worst foods for high cholesterol