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Addicted to Salt?

Salt is one of the most popular seasonings in cooking as well as for adding to meals afterward. So popular is it in fact, that almost everything most of us cook we'll add salt to both during cooking and afterward when dinner is served. There are many foods that people will refuse to eat at all likewise unless they are served with a good helping of salt. This accounts for eggs in particular, as well as chips and crisps.

For some people though this fondness for salt goes beyond a simple preference and is better described as a full blown addiction. This can result in people piling the salt onto their food before even trying it, and adding salt to foods that really don't need it such as their toast or their vegetables.

Dangers of a Salt Addiction

This is a problem because simply, salt in large quantities is not good for us and can place a serious strain on the heart. The likelihood of heart conditions goes up with salt intake, and at the same time this can also make you more likely to suffer from high blood pressure. By seeking out very salty foods you will also likely be seeking out foods that are unhealthy in other ways too, as salt often goes hand in hand with fat and carbs. Consuming too much salt also leaves us in more danger of having a stroke meaning it's something that should be reduced if you are eating large quantities.

Managing a Salt Addiction

The problem is that kicking a salt habit can be quite difficult for many reasons. If you are used to adding salt to lots of your foods then you will likely find that now without salt, food tastes quite bland and unexciting. At the same time, recent studies are suggesting that salt might even be a natural anti-depressant that causes us to almost 'self medicate' with salt when feeling low. In one study, lab rats were found to shy away from activities that they usually enjoyed when salt deficient. Both these facts suggest that it is quite important to gradually reduce salt once you are used to larger amounts rather than to instantly reduce it too drastically. And remember that some salt in your body is important for your health and well-being.

Ways to Reduce Your Salt Intake and Beat a Salt Addiction

Don't Add it to Your Cooking

One quick way to reduce the amount of salt you eat is to make a rule that you don't use it when cooking. This way you leave it to those eating to add their own salt should they need it, rather than adding more salt on top of that you already included. It's perfectly possible to make a meal taste good without adding excess salt, and in fact many of the seasonings you use will already contain salt as part of their makeup for instance gravy granules are very salty as are stock cubes and so you shouldn't need to add more salt after using these.

Avoid Tinned Foods

Tinned foods might claim they contain as many nutrients and vitamins as fresh meals, but they also contain copious amounts of salt. This is because salt is a preservative, used to fight bacteria. That means that food with lots of salt on it can last a long time which is what you want from your tinned meals but it also means that your tinned ravioli really isn't good for you if you already eat too much salt. The same goes for fast food which uses a lot of salt to disguise the lack of other flavor.

Combat Depression

If you do feel depressed then this could be contributing to your need for salt (though it is often involved). Consider talking to someone and addressing anything you're not happy with and your diet might improve as a by-product.

Cook Other Meals

If you can't bring yourself to eat your fish and chips without drowning them in salt, then avoid fish and chips for a while and stick to salads for a while. When you come back to your savory meals you might not need the salt as much.

Train

Though it sounds unusual, in a way you can train yourself not to need salt. This is possible by regularly eating things without salt, such as plain eggs or plain chips. If you don't like them then this is actually a good thing, because it will get you used to these blander tastes and you will find that your cravings change.

Have an Isotonic Sports Drink

Often your body craves what it needs, and sometimes that is salt. If you exercise regularly then you will also be likely to sweat and this will cause you to lose a lot of salt. This then is a problem as you could later binge on salt when eating savory foods to try and replace that missing sodium. Isotonic sports drinks contain sugar and salt in the exact ratios that they are needed in the body and they thus replace any lost salt. Try having an isotonic sports drink straight after a run or workout then, and you shouldn't need to add as much salt to your dinner.





Theodoros Manfredi

Article reviewed by Theodoros Manfredi, PhD. A licensed physician who has worked with children and families for over seven years.


Copyrighted material; do not reprint without permission.

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