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I am a total salt fiend. I love salty foods like pickles and olives, potato chips, Chinese food with soy sauce, and sometimes I’ll even eat salt by itself. On the other hand – I almost never crave sweet foods and can only handle a small amount when I eat them. What causes cravings? Are they all just personal taste or is there a need that isn’t being met?

Smartliving Guest asked this
July 15, 2011 at 1:35 PM



Cravings are tough. When the sudden need strikes for something salty, sweet, and satisfying and immediate gratification is the only noise you can hear in those wild thoughts running through your mind. Certainly NOT the thoughts of the added inches to your hips from extra calories or the added strain to your heart caused by the salt overload. Yet we all deal with cravings and with a few tips, I hope you will not only gain a better understanding of your cravings but you will also learn to better manage each feeling of desire.

Food cravings are not well understood, though three theories are widely held to be true:

  1. Scientists have determined that food cravings may result when there is an imbalance of brain chemicals in our body (ex: serotonin) and as these very chemicals influence our emotions and mood it certainly makes sense because who hasn’t experience a craving when they were overwhelmed with stress or feeling sad? Emotional cravings may also stem from a strict diet. If you are told you are not allowed to have something, more often than not you are going to jones for that particular food.

  2. Hormonal changes may also serve as a trigger for certain foods. It is quite common for women to experience cravings for particular foods (chocolate!) just before they receive their period each month. Pregnancy food cravings are a more drastic demonstration of such cravings, though as many women experience nausea while they are pregnant the cravings may simply be their body trying to tell them what foods they will actually be able to tolerate.

  3. Yet another reason for cravings may be due to a missing nutrient in our diet. In example, pica is a craving for non-food substances such as clay or cornstarch caused by a lack of iron in the diet. This type of craving can certainly be dangerous. Consuming non-food materials may introduce toxic substances into your body and may easily replace the nutrients are body needs from actual food. If this is something you ever witness or experience yourself, please do seek professional help.

In most cases when the craving we have is for sugar, fat, or salt, the cause is commonly psychological rather than a true biological need and we must learn to practice moderation and balance as with everything in life. However in rare cases salt cravings may be caused by a serious medical condition. If you have also experienced weight loss, weakness, and low blood pressure there is a real possibility the true culprit of your cravings is Addison’s disease or Barter Syndrome. As your cravings do seem to be quite drastic, I would certainly encourage you to discuss this with your medical practitioner.

If you come to find that the cause of your craving is not due to a medical reason, it is important that you take measures to control the urge as salt can damage our heart and arteries by raising blood pressure. I would like to point out the recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Americans to consume 2,000 milligrams of sodium or less and if you are over 40 years old or over age 40, have even slightly elevated blood pressure, diabetes, or are African American your sodium is limited to 1,500 milligrams – far less than the typical amount of 3,500 milligrams consumed by the average American. This is important as a mere teaspoon contains 2,300 milligrams and as you mentioned eating salt directly from the shaker it is highly likely that you are well over the advised amount. With salt cravings in particular we can increase or decrease or sensitivity to this taste. The more you add salt to your foods, the more you need it. Yet for those who shy away from salty substances may find the extra salty dish you love to be far too salty for them. If you take measures to slowly reduce the amount of salt in your diet, you may find that you need less and less to satisfy your taste preferences.

I do hope this helps you to gain a better understanding of your cravings. Once you know what is causing your urges, it becomes much easier to take control of the situation.

Jessica Corwin MPH RDN Health Coach answered
July 21, 2011 at 9:14 PM

I'm not an expert on cravings but I also share your salt habit. Mine started 46 years ago when I was in jungles of Vietnam. The theory back then was to ate salt tablets to decrease the level of dehydration or fluid loss. I think the theory is pretty much the same today, especially with athletes, but I don't think there is medical evidence to support this. We do know that the body needs a certain amount of sodium to regulate blood flow and blood pressure. We also know that it plays a role in healthy nerves and muscle tissues. Sodium also increases blood pressure so you need to be sure you are monitoring your blood pressure and checking with your doctor on a regular basis to make sure your salt habit is not having a negative impact on your health. In my case my salt intake does not seem to have any impact on my blood pressure. My doctor eliminated my salt consumption for 60 days and it made no difference in my blood pressure. If your interested in learning more about the importance of salt (sodium) for your body Google "eating salt". Good Luck!

Beryl answered
August 11, 2011 at 12:29 PM
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