Many of us, especially us women, are all too familiar with sugar cravings. We want our sweets, and we want them NOW! When we want the sugar, whoa, you better look out. Nothing short of a lion separated from her cub is quite like us going way our of way to get that chocolate cookie, or even half-consciously rushing through dinner while we excitedly wait for the dessert course to come!
There are many numerous reasons we might have sugar cravings, which could point to different kinds of imbalances. One such imbalance has to do with salt. Yes, salt.
Think of salt as being on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from sugar. Salt is the most contracting food, meaning that it has a very retracting energy in the body, and causes the cellular fluids in the body to contract and pull in. We all know that when we ingest too much salt we can become dehydrated and thirsty. Excess salt can also pull hydration out of the skin. Contracting foods are what Chinese practitioners would call “Yang” foods.
Sugar, on the opposite end, is the most expanding of foods. When we eat foods with sugar in them, we tend to feel more relaxed and open. Sugar causes the body to expand and open up. Expanding foods are considered in Chinese philosophy to be “Yin” foods.
Thus, it makes sense that when we eat too much salt, or too many foods containing salt, we can feel very contracted. Red meat, eggs, fish, dairy, salted cheese, and condiments such as soy sauce all inherently contain a lot of salt. We ingest a lot of salt from eating these foods even if we don’t add additional salt on top of our food. There is also a ton of salt (sodium) in preserved, microwaved and canned foods, and we may be ingesting more than we realize from eating these foods. When we eat a great deal of salt we start to feel extremely contracted, and we unconsciously start to crave more expanding foods, ie the sugar, to create balance in the body.
If we want to cut back on sugar cravings, we need to create overall balance. One such way would therefore to be sure we are not overdoing the salt. This would especially mean table salt, or sodium chloride, which is man-made and can cause the leaching of fluids and minerals from our body. On the other hand, Celtic and Himalayan sea salt are both natural, raw salts that contain about 70 trace minerals, and have been dried naturally by the sun, rather than in a kiln.
Our specific salt needs are up for debate, and depend on our lifestyle and how active we are, the season we are in, our size, etc. The RDA allowance is 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day, and the National Academy of Sciences’ Institution of Medicine recommends between 1,500-2,400 milligrams a day. This is just around one teaspoon. The best way to regulate your salt intake is to switch to Celtic and Himalayan sea salts immediately (throwing out regular table salt), do not add additional salt to your food once it has been prepared, and avoid packaged and processed foods.
As we balance our salt intake, we might just help balance some of our sugar cravings. We will create more of a perfect yin-yang balance in our bodies, minds and spirits.
One recipe comes to mind when wanting something sweeter, yet filling and nutritious, my sweet potato shepherds pie!
All my very best,
I’ve been reading your blog now for a while, but normally I don’t comment. I really appreciate your entry today because I’ve been wondering what the difference was between celtic and regular sea salts.
I have sort of a side question, because I know that you are a nutritionist and I appreciate your broad perspective on food as you incorporate many other cultural belief systems into your advice. Are you 100% raw, or do you believe that raw is the BEST way to go? This is somewhat of an ongoing debate in our family, and I’m curious to know your thoughts. Or, perhaps a future post on the subject?
Hi Love, read my blog “To Salt, or Not to Salt,” which explains the difference between the salts.
I am not 100% raw, though I once was for 3 years. I do not think it is the best way for most people to go at least initially, as you have to transition and cleanse a lot to get there. I think alkaline grains like millet and quinoa, and well cooked starchy vegetables, like yams, are excellent to include in the diet and are grounding. In the cold months I’m about 80% raw, not 100%, and I feel much, much better.
There is not one diet that works for everyone, each person has to individualize their diet and find what is best for them.
Would the opposite be true for salt cravings?
I crave salt and fat (i.e. a salad w/ flax oil and Celtic salt). I also crave spicy. I mostly eat fruit and green leafies.
Possibly! Salt cravings could possibly indicate certain mineral deficiencies. xx Kimberly
Thank you so much for this post-it makes so much sense!!! I was wondering why I had not craved sweets lately, and now I realize it’s because I have pretty much cut salt out of my diet (thanks to you!).
I am in love with your blog, and all the health tips!
About gluten-free foods…why do you support these so much? Is it healthier for the body and the weight or just good for you in general?
Hi July! Great, glad you like my blog so much. 🙂
Many people are gluten intolerant or sensitive, and there are many women that have Candidiasis. Gluten also feeds that issue. So I like to give gluten-free options whenever possible! xx Kimberly
I’ve heard that if you crave sugar you lack protein, and if you crave salt you lack minerals?
I don’t think it is that simple. There are lots of reasons for imbalances!
Great post! Craving for sweets is still my biggest issue – I tried for one month not to eat sugar and I didn’t even managed to live without suger for one single day 😉 I will watch my salt intake better the next daya!
Hi Kimberly –
Another great article. My problem is just staying on track – I crave everything, salt, sugar, and anything else that I’ve been told I have to stay away from. I think my issue is really mind over matter. How do you not feel deprived when switching to a new eating plan.
It would be great if you wrote about any ideas you might have to help some stick to a healthy plan without feeling like we’re missing out on something. Especially when you are the only person in the house that eats this way
HI Mimi, yes, it can be hard when you feel like you are on your own. One of the most important ways to not feel deprived is to switch and upgrade to some food replacements. You can switch to healthy desserts for instance, or flax crackers or sprouted bread instead of regular bread, and quinoa pasta instead of regular pasta.
I will write some more ideas soon! xx Kimberly
Do you think that it is possible to overcome binge eating through a change in diet? Do you have other tips/advice for overcoming this disorder?
Hi Laila! Overall balance in the diet is a big step, but emotional issues need to be addressed as well with binge eating. It is important to have a plan to know what to stick to, and how to get back on track when you do end up binging to rebalance.
If you are interested in talking in depth about this topic, it might be a good idea to get a consultation. Women have lots of emotional issues wrapped in food, and it is important to separate them. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi Kimberly –
I work for Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Thank you for recognizing Dr. Fuhrman’s important work with nutritional medicine in your blog.
I read your blog regularly and really enjoy it. I must comment on your post regarding salt. The dangers of salt are real no matter what type of salt you eat – table salt, himalyan, celtic, sea salt – they are all bad for you. Changing your diet to a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds will bring you to a healthy lifestyle and a life free of all the chronic diseases that plaque most Americans. Be patient with yourself – your taste buds can change! Keep up the great work Kimberly!
Hi Susan, wow! I recommend Eat to Live to just about everyone. Thanks for coming to visit me!!
Thanks for the info about sugar and salt. It makes perfect sense. I only use sea salt anyway, but now I will be switching to celtic sea salt.
Great post.It really contains valuable information.Thanks for sharing.
just discovered your website/blog and am enjoying it immensely. The debate about salt is interesting. My wife and I were using truckloads of celtic sea salt, believing that it was good for us (trace minerals etc. – also slightly addicted!!). The jury is still out on this one for me, but we hardly use any anymore. Taste buds are fully recovered and I really enjoy all the subtle nuances of whole raw foods (usually raw fruits & vegetable fruits). If you are interested there are some great articles on salt and other condiments here:
Hope you enjoy!