How do I cure my salt craving?
New Zealand’s favourite wellbeing expert, Dr Libby answers readers’ questions about living a healthier life.
I crave salt. I try not to eat it as I have read we need to cut it out. Can you please help my conundrum? Thanks, Ann.
Hi Ann, the general dietary advice is to be aware of salt or sodium intake because the general population already consumes more than enough through processed foods.
If you follow a diet consisting of mainly home-cooked food using real food, then it is possible that you are craving salt because you are simply not getting enough. Real foods like fruits, vegetables, lentils, meats, eggs, nuts and seeds are very low in sodium, so you may need to use additional salt on your food if you are not eating packaged or processed foods. It is important to note that stomach acid, which is essential for great digestion, is hydrochloric acid – HCl. The Cl part of HCl is chloride, some of which is derived from sodium chloride.
Salt cravings can also be a sign of other factors that need addressing. It can indicate a calcium deficiency so if you eat a diet low in calcium this needs to be corrected and you may find that your desire for salt falls away. Salt cravings can also be an indicator of what is known as ‘‘adrenal fatigue’’, where cortisol levels are typically low.
If you have experienced longterm stress and have noticed that you have trouble waking up in the morning, body stiffness, deep, unrelenting fatigue, or light headedness then you might want to have your cortisol levels investigated.
Cortisol is a hormone made by the adrenal glands, which is released when we experience chronic stress. In the right amount it acts as an antiinflammatory and helps us to feel alert – both good things.
After periods of long term stress and high cortisol production however, for a variety of reasons the adrenal glands can run out of resources, such as vitamin C, needed to produce appropriate cortisol levels. Low cortisol can then result, leaving people feeling flat and tired.
You may like to discuss your diet and/or have your cortisol levels tested by an experienced health professional to determine if your salt cravings are part of a bigger health picture. Question: I eat a vegan diet and Iwant to keep eating thisway. But my hair is falling out and I am worried about this as I am only 17. Could my lifestyle be affecting my hair loss? Thanks, Courtney.
Hi Courtney, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein are the key nutrients to be mindful of when eating a vegan diet. All of them are essential for healthy growth and maintenance of hair.
You may wish to include more of the following iron containing foods: dates, leafy green vegetables and lentils.
Vegan sources of zinc include seeds, particularly sunflower
seeds. Vitamin B12 is only found in foods of animal origin, however your gut bacteria make vitamin B12. Research suggests the vitamin B12 made by gut bacteria will last up to five years after someone becomes vegan. For some people though, this appears to fall short sooner than five years, after which it must be supplemented.
You can obtain adequate protein eating a vegan diet through the daily inclusion of foods such as lentils, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice and plenty of green leafy vegetables. If your iron, zinc and/or vitamin B12 levels are low enough to cause hair loss you may need to use supplements to bring them back up to normal. Supplements are best prescribed by an experienced nutrition professional to ensure your own personal needs are met.
A constant desire for salty food may indicate other things going on in your body.