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Why Do I Crave Salt So Much? Here Are A Few Common Reasons, Say Experts

Why Do I Crave Salt So Much? Here Are A Few Common Reasons, Say Experts

I have a confession to make: I love salt. I like it on my pizza (which is already salty enough, let’s be real) just as much as I like adding a dash or two (or three, don’t judge) on my salad. You can have your sweet tooth with your cookies and chocolate treats — I prefer to watch The Bachelorette while nibbling on kettle chips or cheese and crackers. If you ever noshed on yummy french fries or popcorn (and who hasn’t?), you know how hard it is to resist salt. But why do I crave salt so much?

While sodium is definitely something our bodies need, most people in the United States consume too much salt in their diets than what’s considered healthy, which goes to show those salty cravings for pizza and pretzels are a real thing. For those of us curious about the science behind this compulsion to scarf down salty food, well, we don’t have to panic too much. *In my best Kindergarten Cop voice* “It’s not a tumor” — or at least something catastrophic is improbable. Most times, cravings just signify our bodies are deficient in something.

However, that’s not always the case. So, let’s take a look at some common reasons for craving salt.

How much salt do we need?

“Sodium plays a crucial role in keeping the body well-hydrated, regulating blood pressure, preventing muscle cramps, and maintaining a healthy nervous system,” Edibel Quintero, a registered dietitian, tells Scary Mommy. “At least 500 mg of sodium is required to maintain these daily functions. Adults and children above 15 years can safely consume up to 2,300 mg of salt per day to support bodily functions requiring sodium.”

On the contrary, according to Quintero, low sodium levels can result in sodium deficiency, which can cause several symptoms, such as nausea, headache, low blood pressure, and irritability.

If your daily salt intake exceeds the recommended range when you crunch the numbers, you may want to consider a few smart swaps to satisfy your cravings. Add lemon juice and/or balsamic vinegar to your meats, salads, and more to give food a quick dash of salty flavor. Or try cayenne in soups, salsas, seafood, and tacos for a salty, spicy boost.

Why do I crave salt, though?


“Stress has a significant impact on appetite,” Quintero says. “Hormonal imbalance caused by increased stress levels can either make you crave sweets or salt. When adrenal glands produce cortisol in excess (a stress hormone), a person possibly develops salt cravings.”

So, before you reach for that bag of potato chips, check in with yourself. Are you feeling agitated or anxious? If so, find an activity that helps calm you, like meditating, journaling, listening to music, or going for a walk.

Extreme Sweating

A strenuous workout or any physical activity that causes extreme sweating can also increase salt cravings. “Sodium is an electrolyte that exists in the body as you sweat,” Quintero says. “This is one of the possible reasons some people crave salty food because their bodies have removed sodium through sweat.”

Of course, excessive sweating or not drinking enough water leads to dehydration, which Krista Elkins, a registered nurse (RN) and paramedic (NRP), tells Scary Mommy is another reason why you might crave salt.

“When a person is dehydrated, they may also have other electrolyte imbalances that may make them crave salt. Salt and other electrolytes are essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system and muscular systems, including the heart.”

If you are dehydrated, Elkins recommends slowly drinking fluids enhanced with vital electrolytes. “It is critical that a person does not over-hydrate with plain water, as they will urinate most of their salt out of their bodies, which can lead to hyponatremia,” she says. “Hyponatremia can lead to altered mental status, stroke-like symptoms, and even death.”

Following a Strict Diet

Not surprisingly, a strict diet that involves cutting down on salty foods can also develop cravings for salt. After all, we all want what we can’t have, right? “Restricting yourself on certain foods for a long time is not helpful in the long run, as you can unexpectedly develop crazy cravings at any time,” Quintero says. “Ignoring salty or sweet foods will lead to overconsumption of food, negatively affecting your diet.”

She recommends giving yourself at least one day a week to enjoy your favorite salty comfort foods, such as pizza and french fries.

Feeling Bored

Let’s face it: When we’re bored, we tend to gravitate towards what makes us feel good — like our salty snacks. “Not having any activity to do or boredom also compel people to develop unhealthy eating behavior,” Quintero says. “This happens when a person doesn’t feel hungry but still wants to eat to kill boredom. When a person feels hungry, they just want to eat some food and do not crave specific foods. Whereas, when a person desires certain food, such as a salty one, it indicates that they may feel bored.”

So, if you’re feeling a little punchy, grab a book or start a puzzle to resist those high-sodium pantry sirens.

An Underlying Medical Condition

“Developing food cravings is normal and completely natural. However, experiencing them more than usual may indicate a medical group,” Quintero says. “Health problems that involve damaged kidneys could also be a cause of salt cravings in some people. When kidneys do not work properly, they fail to regulate sodium, chloride, and potassium in the body, which results in decreased sodium levels in the body, making one crave salt.”

As always, the best course of action if you’re legitimately concerned is to contact your primary care physician. If your salt cravings are caused by something more serious (which is rare!), they’ll help you get your body back on track.

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