“You can never just eat one” that’s what people say about potato chips. Do you find it almost impossible to resist potato chips, pretzels, fries, salted nuts and you want extra ketchup, salad dressing, and sauce on the side? Don’t worry, you are not alone and you don’t have to fight against your instinct. Instead, I want to introduce a new way to look at this craving.
Why do I have salt cravings?
First, we need to see salt as part of a balanced diet. Really? Yes, don’t cut salt out of your diet. Sodium, along with chloride, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium are electrolytes. They work together to keep our body running smoothly: maintain muscle tone, nervous function and blood pressure. Electrolytes function beautifully in balance and they are all important for our well-being. Sodium is essential in maintaining nerve and muscle functions, fluid balance and blood volume. Calcium works to contract muscles, conducts nerve impulses, and build strong bones. Magnesium works to relax muscle and nerves, regulates blood sugar and pressure. Phosphorous is important for healthy bones and teeth. Potassium is an important nutrient for the heart and bones.
But our genetics are evolved from a time when the climate was hot and our ancestors had to hunt down mammoth to survive. To make sure sodium is consumed regularly, our taste buds have developed a certain affinity to salty food and our brain finds this taste pleasurable. To prevent us from dying from excess sweating, our kidneys have an amazing ability to recycle sodium: 2% of the sodium in our body can be reused and this can be 3 to 5 times the amount of sodium we consume in a salt-loaded diet! This efficient system can be crucial to our survival in scorching heat or when dietary sodium is scarce, but it can be counter productive in our lives today, where salt is easily accessible and hidden in processed foods, dressings, and sauces. Consuming too much salt causes increased risk of hypertension and heart disease.
So what is my salt-craving telling me?
Salt craving is your body’s way to remind you it’s time to take a look into the following areas:
Are you eating enough mineral-dense food?
Do you know sodium, along with other minerals has a salty, metallic taste? Stress and excess salt intake makes your body excrete excess levels of other minerals in your body, such as magnesium, zinc, potassium, and calcium. To make our mineral situation worse, our dietary intake of these minerals only meets 30-50% of the recommended levels. Your taste bud is sending you a message to eat more mineral-dense foods.
Are you stressed out?
Prolonged stress makes the body pump out excess stress hormones which lowers our ability to retain minerals. Low levels of mineral means low blood pressure. This fight-or-flight mode drives up the need for sodium and other minerals as our body attempts to save us from dying from low blood pressure. But it’s very unlikely that we need to run away from a saber tooth tiger or survive long days in scorching heat. This self-preservation mechanism makes our body loss precious nutrients and inhibits our bodies’ ability to absorb nutrients from food.
Are you dehydrated?
Salt help to keep water in your body. Exercise, caffeine and alcohol increase mineral loss. Sodium and other minerals keep water in our cells to make sure our body is well hydrated. When there’s less water to go around, the backup plan is to increase sodium level as an attempt to bring more water into your cells. Stay hydrated and replenish with an extra glass of water with every alcoholic or caffeinated beverage.
How to work with your salt craving?
If you crave salt, the key is to make sure you are well hydrated and have a diet rich in mineral-dense foods. These are some of the top stress-fighting foods I know:
This super green is packed with vitamins and minerals. It is a source of B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese.
This recipe is better than potato chips, try this out: Cheesy Kale Chips
This creamy rich fruit is packed with essential fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin C, and minerals. Perfect treat for stressed out adrenals!
These tender little shoots are considered a delicacy in ancient times. They are rich in vitamin K, B vitamins, phosphorous, copper, manganese, and selenium.
Rich in protein and essential fatty acids. Salmon is the perfect food to support the body through fight-or-flight conditions. It’s rich in adrenal-supporting B vitamins and relaxing magnesium.