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March 25, 2014, last updated February 5, 2016

By Genevieve Linton, Contributing Columnist, google + profile

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Doctors,
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of
our Editorial Board

Salt is, without a doubt, the world’s most beloved
condiment. We use it in so many recipes, from adding just a
dash to flavor a salad to even throwing in a pinch to
complete a cake recipe.

But given its universal and frequent use, it is somewhat
surprising that most of us know very little about this
characteristic ingredient.

Salt comes in so many more forms than the typical
powdered table salt found in kitchens and restaurants and
it has so many more uses than just flavoring our food. Salt
is a wonderful substance that comes packed with minerals
and electrolytes necessary for the daily functioning of the
world and even of our own bodies.

Knowing the kind of salt we use in our food, the reasons
why we crave excess amounts of salt and how we can
modify our salt intake so that it provides real benefits to
our health are critical factors in maintaining healthy body
function and avoiding serious illnesses.

What Is Salt and What Are the Different Kinds of Salt?

Salt is a naturally occurring compound composed of nearly
equal amounts of sodium and chlorine. This relatively
simple substance serves various purposes, including
flavoring food, maintaining road safety, preserving food
and managing safe pool conditions.

Considering the various uses of this mineral, it makes sense
that salt comes in more than one form. There are actually
multiple different types of salt, all originating from either
the sea or earth mines. The types of salt most commonly
used for cooking are table salt, sea salt, kosher salt and
rock salt.

Table salt, which can be found on nearly every kitchen
table in the United States, has been refined and contains

Table salt is more questionable in terms of its actual health
benefits and many argue that this type of salt acts as the
real catalyst for the myriad of health problems that can
occur from an over-consumption of salt.

Table salt does have a couple things going for it in terms of
your health. One, table salt, in the US at least,contains
iodine, which is essential for thyroid health. Second, your
body needs a minimal amount of salt --- about half a
teaspoon a day --- to help keep you alive.

[Editor's Note:

You need some salt because salt, together with potassium,
regulates the amount of water that flows into and out of
each and every cell of your body.  This is why when you
are in the hospital, doctors administer an  "saline drip" in
an IV to help to rehydrate you.]

Sea salt occurs in a variety of forms. Sea salt typically has
not been through as much processing as table salt, and it
contains many minerals that are good for body function.

Kosher salt derives its name from the process of drying
meats according to Jewish dietary standards. However in
general it can be used much like table salt for everyday
recipes, as it dissolves quickly. Finally, rock salt is aptly
named because it comes from deposits found in the earth.

Rock salt can be found commonly among recipes for home-
made ice cream.

What are the Negative Health Effects Related to Salt

While most Americans have a general idea that
overconsumption of any product, including salt, can result
in unwanted health issues, many would be surprised to
learn that
not consuming enough salt can also cause
serious health ailments.

The human body uses salt as an electrolyte in order to
balance the fluids in our body, which consists of 60 percent
water. When salt encounters that water in our bodies, it
dissolves into mineral ions that subsequently act as the
catalyst for neural impulses, or the messengers between
the brain and the body.

Therefore if our bodies don’t get a sufficient amount of this
mineral packed compound, we can experience serious
health problems that can even result in death.

Consuming too little salt can be dangerous, but most
Americans find it much more difficult to control their over
consumption of salt.

According to the Institute of Medicine, the average
American consumes 50 percent more salt than that
recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and
most of this excess sodium consumption comes from high
levels of sodium found in processed foods.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control,
consuming high levels of sodium over the recommended
amount causes
hypertension and increases the risk of heart
attacks and strokes. Eating too much salt is also one of the
most common causes of
fluid retention.

The British Medical Journal additionally concludes that high
salt intake is linked with cardiovascular disease. Needless to
say, maintaining a healthy balance of salt intake proves
critical to our overall health.

What Causes Salt Cravings?

With so many choices of satisfyingly salty foods available in
the restaurants and supermarkets, it probably comes as no
surprise that millions of Americans suffer from frequent salt
cravings. Furthermore, when we take a closer look at the
way salt has affected the human species historically,
culturally and physically, cravings for sodium-rich foods
seem quite normal, if not expected.

Are Salt Cravings a Yearning for Our Original Home?

Sodium researcher and book author on the subject Dr.
Barbara Hendel points out that the human species
originated from a salty environment, the ocean.

Humans have evolved over the course of time to find ways
of preserving salty conditions like those of the ocean,
according to a 2008 study led by Dr. Michael J. Morris of
the University of Iowa that looks at the psychobiology of
sodium intake.

The study also points out as evidence of this the fact that
one of the four major
taste sub-modalities is devoted to
sensing out salt-rich foods. Therefore, salt cravings can be
linked to our biological and historical need as a species for
sodium intake.

Besides our historical and biological need as humans to
maintain sodium levels similar to those from which we
originated, we have also seen that the human body needs
the minerals found in salt in order to function properly.

Have you ever had a craving for salty foods after an intense
workout? After dehydrating activities, such as exercise or
excess drinking, our body needs to consume salt to restore
essential electrolytes that have been lost through sweating,
urination and other liquid excretion methods. A salt craving
resulting from dehydration is, in reality, our body asking us
to replenish some of those essential minerals and

Constant cravings for salty food may also be a result of
something called "
adrenal fatigue", a syndrome in which
the adrenal glands fail to maintain proper homeostasis in
the body. This syndrome, most commonly caused by
stressful situations, results in a loss of sodium in the body,
and in turn causes frequent cravings for salty foods.

If you think you may be experiencing salt cravings as a
result of adrenal fatigue, check your symptoms

Finally, salt cravings can occur as a result of simply eating
too much salt. A taste for salt, while it most certainly can
indicate a physical need from our bodies, is also a learned
taste sensation.

The more salt we consume with our food, the more will we
crave it in order to fulfill that desire for the salty taste.
Processed foods that are high in sodium produce an almost
addictive effect on our taste buds, pushing us to eat foods
with the same or a higher level of sodium.

Seven Natural Remedies to Curb Salt Cravings

1. Distract yourself

Just like with any craving, we can avoid giving in by simply
distracting ourselves from thinking about the craving. Once
that voice in your head starts tempting you to binge on
salty potato chips, try distracting yourself.

Leaving the house to go for a walk, reading a book in the
park or taking up a new hobby are just a few examples of
how you can redirect your energy away from the salt
craving and into another task.

Reduce Your Salt Intake

Another way to curb cravings is to thoughtfully reduce the
amount of salt you put in your food.

As we have seen, eliminating salt completely could cause
adverse effects. However, as most of us are over-
consumers of sodium, we need to be more conscious of the
recommended amount of 2.5 grams or 1 teaspoon of salt
per day.

While reducing salt usage to only 1 teaspoon per day may
be difficult at first, studies show that our bodies and taste
buds eventually become accustomed to the revised level of
salt intake.

Once your taste buds are used to a smaller dosage of salt,
you won’t need as much to fulfill that salty craving.

Load up on Mineral and Electrolyte-rich Water

Because salt cravings can result from a lack of electrolytes
in the body, drinking water loaded with electrolytes and
minerals will help to satisfy your body’s urging for sodium.

Essentially what your body craves is the minerals that salt
provides, so fulfilling that need will be not only a more
effective but also healthier way to remedy a salt craving

Substitute Salt with Lemon Juice in Recipes

Lemon juice provides a tasty and satisfying alternative to
salt in many recipes.

Instead of loading your meal with refined table salts, try
squeezing some fresh lemon juice on top of your food.
Lemon is a strong flavor, so in many cases this will suffice
to add a punch of flavor to most dishes.

Reach for a Bag of Nuts

Many nuts, in particular sunflower seeds and pistachios,
have a naturally salty flavor. When you crave a snack high
in sodium content, such as chips or crackers, try eating a
handful of your favor type of nut instead.

This way you will not only fulfill your desire for a sodium-
rich snack, but you will also receive the additional health
benefits provided by nuts. (Read more about the Top 10
health benefits of nuts.)

Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

According to the Chemical Senses Center, low blood
glucose levels trigger cravings, among them a desire to
consume salt.

Maintaining strong blood sugar levels is simple --  it is just
a matter of understanding what affects those levels.

Eating consistently throughout the day has been proven to
keep glucose levels healthy. Skipping meals and going more
than three or four hours without eating causes glucose
levels to drop, resulting in more intense cravings and
overeating at meals.

Eating consistency throughout the day doesn’t mean you
should eat huge meals each time. Keep healthy snacks like
carrots, raisins and nuts around the house for a quick
snack between meals. If you have a large meal that you
know you won’t finish, go ahead and set part of it aside as
a snack later.

Take a Daily Multivitamin That Contains Minerals.

Keeping your body’s mineral need satisfied can be effective
in preventing cravings for salt.

Nowadays, multivitamins that are packed with nutrients and
minerals are easily accessible and affordable, and many are
made to be taken once daily in order to ensure a healthy
intake of essential vitamins and nutrients. There are many
brands available, so consult your doctor about which one is
right for you, as factors such as age and sex determine
how effective various multivitamins will prove.

Remember, frequent salt cravings affect most Americans.

A salt craving can be a very important indication by our
bodies that we lack something our body needs to function.
When we understand more about why we crave salt, we
can begin to control our own health by responding

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