Give me a bag of chips or a bowl of cheese crackers and I’m good. My vices are linked to my salt cravings. There’s a lot of media attention around sugar and cravings around sweet treats, but what about salty cravings? If you’re with me on preferring the savory, read on.
Why do we have cravings?
Cravings are hints that your body is giving you about what could be going on physically, nutritionally or emotionally. Humans are wired to crave sugar, salt and fat. But when cravings becomes unbalanced due to nutritional deficiencies, over exposure of one flavor (e.g. salty chips, once you start you can’t stop – really), or simply out of habit it can be hard to ignore and ultimately derail your healthy eating lifestyle.
You’ve heard a lot about sugar’s addictive qualities. It’s been compared to being as addictive as cocaine because it activates the same area of the brain (reward center). Biologically speaking, we naturally seek sugar because it provides a quick source of energy. Our brain also uses a majority of the sugars that we consume. The same ideas apply to salt. Not only do our bodies need it for proper functioning, but also lights up pleasure centers of our brain.
That’s why if you are stressed and activating your flight or flight response you reach for the office candy bowl or in this case, a bag of chips to soothe your stress.
Just like sugar, we can build a tolerance to salt. The more we have it the more we want it and tolerate more. The good news is that you can retrain your tastebuds and you’ll start craving less salt. It’s a matter of having a new baseline. Once that’s been established your tastebuds will actually be much more sensitive to saltiness!
Be mindful of the source of your salt intake
One thing I want to make clear is that sugar and salt are not the enemy or inherently bad. As I mentioned our bodies need them to function. It’s a matter of your source, quantity and whether it’s within a balanced diet. Did you notice that the salty cravings I mentioned at the beginning are mostly processed snacks designed by food companies to be addicting? Not many people are binging on seaweed or celery sticks. There are simple strategies using real food to help curb those unhealthy salt cravings and keep you feeling satisfied.
Three tips for curbing your salt cravings
- Eat a variety of flavors – The flavors that are most consumed in the Standard American Diet are sweet and salty. But there are other flavors you need in your repertoire not just for culinary flavor but the variety of nutrition it provides! Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent are the six tastes according to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine. The sense of taste not only helps us enjoy our food but it guides us to balanced nutrition. By incorporating all flavors in your diet you help to balance any deficiencies and also have a satisfying meal.
- Are you hungry or just bored? – Snacking has become a form of entertainment. I find that I find myself reaching for a satisfying crunchy salty snack when I want to distract myself from starting dinner, doing dishes or just bored from a day filled with unsatisfying tasks. Understand the root of your craving by being your own detective. When those cravings kick in, take a minute and take a deep breath and ask yourself: am I hungry or am I bored? If it’s true hunger and depending on the time of day grab a wholesome snack (e.g. celery sticks with nut butter) Identify whether you’ve had satisfying meals throughout the day – did you eat breakfast and lunch? If not, you can work towards having satisfying meals to take you through a longer period of time to allow your body to fully digest the meal.
- Snack on natural sources salt and minerals – When you’re craving savory and salty your body may be asking for more minerals. Sea vegetables like nori, kelp, dulse are a dense source. Often the salty craving also comes with the desire for crunch and celery sticks are a great way to address both. Other ideas are homemade popcorn with sea salt, kale chips, and olives. Choose unrefined high quality salts like Himalayan salt or sea salt because they haven’t been striped and bleached of the rich array of naturally occurring minerals that are beneficial.
If you’re looking to balance your cravings and want to explore how that could work for you, I’m offering a free consultation to help you get the support you need. Just contact me here to set one up!
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