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  • Craving Salt: What It Means And What You Can Do About It?

    Craving Salt: What It Means And What You Can Do About It?

    The Ayurveda Experience August 01, 2023

    With tantalizing flavors and spices all around, our food cravings have no limit. But have you ever wondered, why sometimes, you end up craving that one specific taste or flavor? If you find yourself reaching out for salty food items, more often than usual, it might be an indication that something’s wrong.   

    Food cravings are a natural part of life. Some of us crave potato chips, while others crave chocolate, refined carbohydrates, or salty foods which are ultimately unhealthy. Join us as we delve deep into the intricacies of salt cravings and also find ways to address these particular cravings, empowering you to make conscious choices! Here’s what we’ll cover in this article.  

    • What Salt Cravings are All About 
    • Ayurveda’s Opinion on Salt Cravings 
    • Factors that might Affect Cravings 
    • Dosha Imbalance: Consuming Too Much Salt 
    • How to Overcome Cravings 

    What salt cravings are all about 

    Research has shown that many food cravings are not actually cravings for the food itself. Instead, cravings may involve a complex interplay of factors such as brain messages or behaviors that turn to habits over time. It can also be an indication of easy access to certain food items. Research says that particular foods may help stimulate the ‘reward regions’ of your brain, that ultimately influence your food choices and eating behavior. Consuming these specific foods activate the neurons in that reward region, creating highly positive feelings of pleasure. Because of this, you continue to keep seeking these foods almost regularly. They are labeled as hyperpalatable foods since they are easy to digest and have pleasurable flavors such as sweet or salty. They might also indicate that the body is deficient in certain minerals or otherwise can also be caused due to boredom, or self-imposed food restrictions. When craving salt, or other substances, we may look to unhealthy food items but minerals are best found in whole, healthy foods that will not cause other health problems. Minerals taken from natural sources are in a form that best allows them to be absorbed by the body. 

    Factors that might affect food cravings

    Food advertisements: The food industry spends around $10 billion every year on snack food advertising and that makes snacks a huge business. Most of the snacks that we prefer to eat are ultra processed and fall into the category of hyperpalatable foods. This means that they can stimulate brain reward pathways. These “craveable” foods may include potato chips, crackers, ice cream, soda, or any fast-food items. Being processed foods items, they come with high amounts of sugar, salt, and fat that send messages to the brain to “eat me!”. Just watching a 30-second ad or photos on social media will also spark those cravings. Its best to avoid getting influenced by such ads as they are nothing more than marketing gimmicks, 

    Stress: Severe stress is likely to suppress your appetite. More so, a longer-lasting chronic stress is also associated with cravings for high-fat food items brimming with calories. 

    SleepA healthy body demands a healthy mind. Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining the wellness of both body and mind. Adequate sleep helps to regulate metabolic functions, and a lack of sleep is associated with imbalances in hormones. These hormonal fluctuations may lead to overeating due to unhealthy cravings. 

    Exercise: Workouts and exercises can influence your appetite in several ways. The duration and intensity of a workout can result in the blood moving away from your gut to supply oxygen to your muscles and heart. This results in loss of appetite. Although, after exercising, the hunger mechanism of your body gradually resumes. A less intense workout such as a moderate walk on the treadmill may or may not have such an effect on your appetite. When a person loses too much sodium – this could be due to excessive exercising and sweating. It may also lead to salt cravings.  

    Hormonal changes: In women, fluctuating hormones during various phases of their menstrual cycle may lead to low estrogen levels in their bodies. As a result, they may face increased cravings and feel less satisfied after eating. 

    What Ayurveda has to say about salt cravings

    When deciding what to eat, you should know your constitution or body type and understand its relationship to various kinds of food. You should understand the effects that food will have on your unique doshic balance. 

    Your diet should be composed of all six rasas or tastes. They are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. All of these have an impact on the tridoshas – Vata, Kapha, and Pitta. The six rasas or tastes are also a manifestation of the five basic elements of nature, or the pancha mahabhutas, earth, water, fire, air, and space. 

    The salty taste is a combination of fire and water elements. It pacifies Vata, and aggravates Pitta and Kapha doshas. 

    With salt cravings, one or more of these doshas may be deranged or imbalanced. If you have an imbalance of one of these doshas or qualities, Ayurveda recommends avoiding foods and lifestyle habits that cause the imbalance of that quality and dosha. These imbalanced doshas and qualities will need to be brought back into balance before this condition can be healed. 

    Don't know your Dosha yet? Take this quick Dosha quiz to find out! 

    Dosha imbalance: Effects of consuming too much salt  

    A fast-paced and stressful environment can easily lead to Vata and Pitta imbalances. 

    When nerves are exhausted and overwhelmed, your body will try to naturally regain equilibrium. You are likely to crave sweet, sour, and salty tastes because they calm Vata dosha. 

    On the other hand, an indulgence in salty food while catering to these cravings may aggravate Pitta and Kapha dosha. Aggravated Pitta will manifest itself in feelings of anger, crankiness, and irritability. You might crave sweet, cold treats such as ice cream or iced beverages. A healthy approach would include bitter and astringent foods, which would help cool and calm a Pitta imbalance. 

    So, craving salt calls for Vata dosha to be remedied without causing your Pitta to aggravate. 

    READ MORE: Vata Diet: Everything You Need To Know

    The Ayurvedic scholar Charaka says that there are three substances that should not be taken in excess or used continuously – pippali (Piper longum), alkali, and salt.

    He justifies this by saying that salt is associated with hot and sharp properties. It is deliquescent which means it has a tendency to absorb moisture from the air and dissolve into it. It is capable of producing a laxative effect.

    It is an appetizer, digestive, and laxative. If used excessively it is responsible for the accumulation of doshas. It produces fatigue, lassitude, and weakness in the body. 

    How to overcome cravings

    Experiencing slight fluctuations of emotions, energy levels, or mood will allow you to be more mindful of your needs. Instead of reaching for a salty snack, carry some healthy alternatives with you. Sweet apples, apricots, almonds, herbal teas, seeds, and berries are good choices. 

    Include warm cooked food and beverages in your diet, as well as soft and oily foods. Minimize raw, cold, and dry foods. Eating a protein rich diet will also help keep your hunger in check. 

    Follow Vata pacifying diet. Barley, millets, avocado, beans, corn, wholegrains, and dry fruits can be consumed to curb hunger cravings. Eat a sufficient quantity at regular intervals. Include adequate amounts of oily, warm, soft foods, and warm drinks. 

    Consuming bitter, sweet, and astringent herbs helps to curb hunger as they decrease Pitta. Avoid excess spices and sour tasting food as they increase Pitta and may increase hunger.  

    READ MORE: Pitta Diet: Everything You Need To Know | Kapha Diet: Everything You Need To Know

    Unlock the hidden, healing wisdom of food -- the biggest medicine out there – and use it to fight diseases, shed excess kilos, boost health, happiness, and immunity, all without going on a diet! Join Holistic Nutrition - Ayurveda on Diet and Nutrition for Vata, Pitta, Kapha course online! 

    References 

    • Cravings | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 
    • Exploring Ayurvedic Knowledge on Food and Health for Providing Innovative Solutions to Contemporary Healthcare - PMC (nih.gov) 
    • (PDF) A conceptual study on Trividha Atisevaniya Varjya Dravya w.s.r. to Kshara (Alkali) (researchgate.net) 
    • (PDF) Salt in ayurveda I. (researchgate.net) 

     

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