Craving sugar and salt? Your body may be trying to tell you something. Food literally fuels the human body, and hankering for something sweet and/or salty may have a closer connection to the inner workings of your body than you might have thought.
Read on for more possible reasons why you’re tempted to reach for that bag of potato chips while watching TV, or why you head straight for the ice cream bin when you do your weekly shopping. Mind you, these reasons don’t even begin to cover the psychology behind emotional eating (another factor to consider), but the potential physiological causes for your cravings.
Once you’re better aware of why you’re craving sugar and salt, you might be able to manage these temptations more constructively.
You Might Have Gotten Too Used To Eating Junk Food
Your appetite and cravings have as much to do with your brain than they do with your digestion. Are you in the habit of eating processed foods high in sugar or derivatives like high fructose corn syrup? Well, that quick “high” you get from these junk foods may be causing you to crave them more and more.
It’s cause-and-effect, and it’s cyclical in nature: You get hungry, you go for convenience and feed yourself something rich in sugar and/or sodium. Your body gets a rush of serotonin. You feel great. This is what makes the habit addictive. Your taste buds now dictate what you want to eat.1
In fact, studies have shown that salt can have similar addictive effects as hard drugs. A worrying fact, considering the effect high sodium levels can have on your health and why doctors often recommend regulating your salt intake.2
Similarly, the same claim may be made regarding sugar, as researchers are establishing the same behavioral traits and characteristics between drug addiction and an over-reliance on sugary food.3
So, while you may be psychologically hardwired to crave sugary and salty junk food, it doesn’t mean you can’t change your habits. You might be surprised how effectively a balanced diet full of nutrients and healthy protein, as well as making sure you’re well-rested and amply hydrated can help quell your cravings and keep you full longer — as long as you eat on time and plan your meals wisely.4
Constantly Craving Sugary Snacks And Tasty Carbs? Check Your Blood Sugar Levels
If you find yourself susceptible to binging sweets or carb-laden snacks (like donuts and pizza), your blood sugar levels might be low. Remember: Food fuels your body. And if your energy stores are running low, your blood sugar may drop.
If this happens, you’ll want the easiest, quickest way to replenish your fuel stores. Unfortunately, that may involve reaching for foods rich in simple sugars and carbohydrates. This is why eating a candy bar or donut can perk you up much faster than munching through a salad or Buddha bowl — it’s thanks to that quick hit of sugar.5
However, once you’ve satiated your craving, the sugar you’ve just consumed could lead to a big spike in your blood sugar levels. This will eventually lead to a big crash in energy. It’s a vicious cycle. Now it’s easier to see how the habit of eating sugar becomes addictive.6
The solution to keeping your blood sugar levels on a constantly even keel is to make sure you’re eating meals composed of the right foods that keep you satiated. Consider adding these foods to your diet:
- Healthy high-fat foods, like avocado
- Omega-3-rich fish, like salmon, mackerel, and halibut
- Fiber-rich green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, and spinach)
- Dark chocolate, the darker the better (less sugar, but the same sinful flavor)7
- Craving-killing, protein-rich foods, like nuts (almonds) and red meat8
Now, if you find your hunger levels are all over the map (lots of spiking and crashing), it may be time to see your doctor. Diet and lifestyle modifications are great, but they’re no substitute for necessary medical care.
Feeling Salty? You Could Be Majorly Stressed Out
If you find yourself continually craving salt, some theorize it’s related to something called adrenal fatigue. This is a group of symptoms associated with extreme stress and tiredness – and certain food cravings. Now, there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of adrenal fatigue, but that doesn’t mean that stress can’t spur food cravings.9,10
When you’re super stressed out, it’s fairly common to want a taste of something salty. It’s possible that your sodium levels are shot and your body is looking to up its salt intake.
Another possible reason you want that salty taste seemingly only a bag of popcorn can provide? You might actually be thirsty. When you’re dehydrated, your body might want some salt — and it isn’t exactly specifying where it wants that salt to come from.11
The next time you’re hankering for something salty, you may want to consider drinking a glass of water first. Also, there are a lot of healthier alternatives to snack on that can give you that salty taste without actually raising your sodium levels all that much.12
Try popping your own corn and adding seasonings liberally instead of choosing store-bought (which is sure to have an astronomical sodium content), or snacking on a handful of homemade trail mix, kale chips, dry-roasted nuts or chickpeas.
Control Your Cravings The Healthy Way
Snacking on processed foods is a habit that can be broken, especially once you understand the possible reasons behind your cravings. Opt for a balanced eating plan and stick to it. Always have guilt-free healthy snacks on hand for those hunger pangs. And make sure you’re drinking enough water. In doing this, you may find yourself steering clear of salty and sugary cravings for good.