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6 Ways to Tame Your Salt Cravings

Jan 22 2021
3 min read
woman salting bowl of flour

Our cravings for salt run deep.

It is our main source of sodium, a mineral and electrolyte that helps maintain the right amount of fluid in our cells, keeps muscles working efficiently and helps nerves send messages throughout the body. That, and it is pretty tasty. Salt tends to be the first thing we reach for when we want to bring out the flavors in our food. But it has also been firmly established that overindulging in your salt craving can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke or kidney failure. While most of us know the risks of a high-sodium diet, many of us continue to reach for the shaker and for canned or other processed foods that are packed with more salt than we probably realize. Then, we do it again.

Why do we Crave Salt?

Our salt cravings are, in part, controlled by a small area of the brain called the hypothalamus, which produces hormones that dictate our instinctive needs, from sleep to sex to hunger. While it’s true that the body requires some sodium, scientists say that intense salt cravings go back to prehistoric times. Salt was scarce, so the brain developed a “rewards system” that encouraged a person to seek it out whenever possible, because it was necessary for survival. When salt was consumed, the brain sent the message to repeat the behavior. Today, that hard-coded drive remains.

How Much Salt do we Need?

You should limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, unless you are age 51 or older; have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease or are black, in which case you should aim for a maximum of 1,500 mg. Less is better, of course, and every bit that you cut back counts. Most Americans consume too much salt, mostly through processed foods and restaurant meals. Just one teaspoon of salt contains 2,325 mg of sodium, so it’s easy to see how.

Here are some common foods and the amount of sodium they contain:

Soy sauce
Serving Size: 1 Tbsp
Amount of Sodium: 1,000 mg

Tomato soup
Serving Size: 8 oz
Amount of Sodium: 700-1,260 mg

Frozen cheese pizza
Serving Size: 4 oz
Amount of Sodium: 450-1,200 mg

Pretzels
Serving Size: 1 oz
Amount of Sodium: 290-560 mg

Potato chips
Serving Size: 1 oz
Amount of Sodium: 120-180 mg

Salad dressing
Serving Size: 2 Tbsp
Amount of Sodium: 110-505 mg

Bread
Serving Size: 1 oz
Amount of Sodium: 95-210 mg