10 Reasons Why You’re Craving Salty Foods

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why do I crave salty foods

Ever wonder why do you crave salty foods?

We all know that salty foods are terrible for our health, but sometimes we just can’t help craving them.

Whether it’s the saltiness of potato chips or the taste of a juicy cheeseburger with fries and ketchup that draws you, there are many underlying reasons why people crave salt.

In this blog post, we will explore 10 common reasons why you’re craving salty foods like pickles and some ways to stop those cravings!

Why Do I Crave Salty Foods?

1 – Dehydration

dehydration sweat

Salt cravings can often be a sign that your body is low on fluids and needs some hydration.

Your body craves salt when dehydrated because salt regulates the water and potassium levels in your body.

If you are low on water then your body will crave salt because  salt will help your body keep water.

If you’re feeling lethargic, lightheaded or dizzy then the first thing to do is drink plenty of water.

A good rule of thumb is to aim for drinking at least eight cups (64oz) of fluid per day to stay healthy.

When you feel thirsty it’s too late: dehydration affects concentration and moods as well as many other important functions.  So always make sure that you are staying hydrated!

Another good way to prevent or end dehydration is by consuming water-rich foods like fruit and veggies.

2 – Excessive Exercise and Sweating

excessive sweating

Exercise is a great way to stay fit and healthy, of course. But if you exercise too much, your body can release an excess of fluids which will lead to your kidneys releasing minerals.

This mineral imbalance could make the craving for salt grow stronger because sodium (one of the components of salt) regulates fluid balance in the body.

Sometimes people also sit or sleep for too long in hot rooms or cars.

For example, have you ever gone to sleep and then woken up in the middle of the night because the temperature was too hot?

Or you wore a business suit that was too tight and snug but couldn’t take it off during a meeting?

It’s possible innocent situations like these are actually causing you to sweat like a pig!

Heck, the heat alone could cause your blood pressure to boil!

Please note both excessive exercise and sweating have the same core problem causing salt cravings- dehydration!

Try exercising less or drinking more water when having these cravings!

If sweat-induced salty food cravings are what’s plaguing you then try cutting back on how often you go:

  • outside for super-strenuous walks
  • Super-strenuous bike rides
  • other outdoor activities that result in excessive sweating

Note:  I’m only suggesting reducing these exercises IF you are having salt cravings.  I’m not suggesting reducing them in general!  🙂

Doing this should help cut any urge to crave foods like chips and French fries (i.e., salty treats).

3 – Lack of Sleep

picture of woman sleeping at her desk to show how to avoid things that make you sleepy before bed

Missing out on sleep can increase your salt intake and also make you crave things like chips, cookies or French fries.

A lack of shut-eye makes it difficult to be in control of what’s going into your mouth. So if salty foods are cropping up more and more, then the culprit could be a sleepless night!

This will only lead to more weight gain! 

If you’re experiencing a lack of sleep, then obviously your body needs the rest and so do your taste buds!

A good night’s sleep can do wonders for keeping cravings in check as well as weight loss efforts. Try going to bed at a decent hour or, even better, taking power naps during the day if needed.

And while we’re on the subject…avoid caffeine before bedtime because it will only make things worse!

Afternoon slump? Go ahead and have that coffee break but try not to take too many sips (or go overboard with dessert either).

That way you won’t end up with an increased appetite leading to craving salty foods like fries and chips.

4 – Out of Habit

picture of a habit loop of cue, routine and reward as context on how to resist the urge to eat

Let’s face it – we tend to eat the same things we ate yesterday and the day before.

If you’ve been eating lots of salt then you’re more likely going to crave salt today out of habit.

Foods with salt are often the most rewarding foods, too.

This is because salt makes our mouth water, and we often associate that with pleasure.

And salty foods like fried chicken and pizza are often high in fat and calories, too. But so are other less obvious foods that also are salty, items like:

  • tomato soup
  • canned vegetables
  • crackers 

The easiest way to stop craving foods with salt may be as simple as making a conscious effort NOT to eat them. 

This means not even looking at the chips in your pantry or fries on your plate when you’re eating dinner tonight.

You can also try lessening how much sodium-rich food you consume by using spices instead of salts (like turmeric).

Eating whole foods (i.e., foods that have not been processed, refined, or had ingredients added) will help too! Why?

Among other attributes, whole foods are dense, which helps keep it interesting for your taste buds. Whole foods also fill you up so there’s no room left over for those pesky salty snacks.

5 – Out of Boredom

how to stop boredom eating

Boredom is a huge cause of salty food cravings.  

Boredom causes people to crave salt because salty foods can be a distraction.

People with lots of time on their hands can get lost in the flavor of salt (and sugar!) and forget all about their boredom.

There’s also tons of food with salt, which creates a lot of variety. Variety is intriguing for humans – especially if you’re bored.

When you think about the salty foods you’re about to wolf down, this creates a little bit of excitement in your body.

This can be hard to detect but there can be a little buzz of excitement. Like you are getting a special treat right before stuffing your face with Doritos.

If you’re bored, this little buzz from different flavors can cause salty cravings.

If you find yourself craving foods with salt out of boredom, then try to do something else instead.

Get up and take a walk around the block or catch up on your favorite TV show while eating some unsalted popcorn.

This will help give your brain a break from thinking about food so much! If this is still not enough to stop cravings, try distracting yourself with another activity (like reading) for 20 minutes before indulging.

You might surprise yourself by how cravings lose their appeal after taking care of other things first.

6 – Premenstrual Syndrome

pms symptoms

PMS. There’s a very real reason why it feels like everything you eat is salty.

It can actually be the hormones in your body causing salt cravings and other PMS symptoms.

Changing hormone levels can cause cravings because of your body’s need for minerals.

Some people find eating more potassium-rich foods help lessen their desire for sodium.

Others do better with magnesium supplementation to reduce those feelings of lethargy and bloating!

Trying these tips when you are having PMS symptoms, for best results. After all – taking care of yourself should always come first and PMS is part of life!

7 – Underlying Health Condition

Underlying conditions such as Addison’s Disease and Bartter Syndrome can cause salt craving too.

Addison’s Disease is where the adrenal gland doesn’t produce enough of the hormone cortisol. Adrenal insufficiency and low blood pressure result.

People with Bartter syndrome have too low sodium, which then cannot absorb into the body. Most of the sodium they eat gets lost through sweat or urine, making them forever low on sodium.

And if you’re low on sodium, then guess what you’re gonna crave – salt!

These underlying health situations causing salt cravings are rare.  But can you lead to asking yourself, “why do I crave salty foods?”!

If you are having salt cravings and don’t know whether you have one of these conditions,  definitely try the above tips! Checking with your doctor if things don’t get better is always a backup option.

For more info on Addison’s disease read here.

8 – Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolyte imbalances can occur for many reasons such as sweating, diarrhea or vomiting.

Women can easily become dehydrated from morning sickness as well.

Vomiting is a major cause of dehydration because  it can make us lose a lot of water and electrolytes.

Electrolyte imbalance can also cause messed up blood pressure readings too!

Common remedies include taking small amounts of fluids every hour. Or making popsicles with fresh fruit juices in them. These are both great ways to get hydration without adding too many more calories.

Before bedtime, it’s also important to drink plenty of liquids before going to sleep. You don’t want your salt cravings waking up during the night! 🙂

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms (sweating, diarrhea, vomiting), and especially if they persist, then it may be time to get checked out by your doctor.

Or try taking an electrolyte supplement such as an amino acid water supplement! Even apple cider vinegar may help!

9 – Not Enough Whole Food

whole grain fiber bread wheat

If you are not eating a balanced diet with whole foods, then instead of having a reserve of energy, your body will need the quick energy found in salty foods.  

You have a salt craving for quick energy because lacking whole foods you have no sustainable energy source.

However, instead of salty foods in reality you just need a more sustainable form of energy which you can find in whole foods. 

To stop cravings for salt due to bad diet habits:

  • Eat more whole foods and less processed food with high sodium content
  • Recognize hunger versus cravings: try eating protein snacks when hungry instead of reaching for something with salt such as chips or pretzels
  • Eat spicy foods with lots of flavor such as Indian curries to satisfy  your taste buds without adding any extra salt

10 – Stress

picture of stressed out woman with sticky notes on her face to show bad work life balance

Stress is a major contributor to salt cravings, as many people find it difficult to balance their life and work.

Stress contributes to many of the factors on this list as well – from lack of sleep, to dehydration, blood pressure, and even sweating.

Plus when you are stressed you are more likely to skip nutritious meals and crave quick salt fixes instead!

If you’re stressed out, then one way of dealing with the stress is through practicing mindfulness techniques. Some great mindfulness techniques include meditation or deep breathing exercises.

Here are some other great ideas too:

  • try practicing yoga or other forms of exercise
  • listen to calming music
  • play with your pets
  • hang out with friends and family members
  • schedule some time for yourself during your day, even if it’s just 15 minutes of deep breathing or
  • sip a cup of tea in silence while reading your favorite book
  • do anything that will help you take care of yourself, so you’re ready to tackle whatever is thrown at you next. 

It might also be worth checking in on what’s going on at work if you’re feeling the pressure.

Try taking a break when you need to, instead of getting back on that treadmill desk as soon as possible!

Why Do I Crave Salt and How Do I Stop Craving Salt 

If you’re wondering why do I crave salty foods it’s most likely a mixture of dehydration and improper nutrition.

Some people are so thirsty that they don’t even realize this could be a factor in their salt cravings – dehydration may not feel as obvious because they’re still getting fluids from food and other beverages.

To stop craving salt, the best option is to consume more water and whole foods. You can also try spices or other seasonings instead of salt, for example by using black pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano.

But if you do regularly drink enough throughout the day (at least eight cups), it’s worth checking with your doctor just in case there’s an underlying health condition causing salt cravings.

And remember: it might take some time for all these different strategies to work effectively together but eventually it will pay off!

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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