by Jessica Smith, REDBOOK
Sugar and salt, like yin and yang, they are seemingly opposite tastes, but did you know that too much salt could be causing your sugar cravings?
Too much salt creates an imbalance in your body, which may in turn lead you to crave salt's yin cousin, sugar.
"Sodium acts as a buffer, raising PH as it draws water into the body,
sugary foods have an acidic-affect (PH-lowering) on the body",
says Registered Dietician Lauren O'Connor. "Though the body has set mechanisms in place to maintain a proper PH-balance, the sugar (yin) salt (yang) connection may be a way the body responds to a temporary shift in balance."
Not only may it make you crave sweets, but it could also be halting your weight loss efforts, too. "When we consume too much sodium, it upsets our electrolyte balance," says O'Connor. "This affects our metabolism -- throwing our bodies off kilter. When we feel a little off, we may crave sugars because they stimulate pleasure and give us a quick burst of energy", says O'Connor .
To beat your sugar cravings, try focusing first on reducing your salt intake.
And you don't have to worry too much about the saltshaker - studies show that 75 percent of our daily salt intake comes hidden in the form of foods like ketchup, bread and canned soups. The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day - and most of us consume that much before lunch!
Here are five easy ways to cut down on your salt intake:
1. Cut out low fat or fat-free foods.
Most "diet" foods have large amounts of sodium added in to enhance flavor in low fat products, which is actually worse than if they had just left the fat content in the food. These high-sodium foods (frozen dinners labeled "healthy" are often the worst culprits) can cause everything from bloating, to increased sugar cravings. Even with a higher fat content, you are better off eating a fresh meal or snack than a reduced fat processed food product.
Related: Boost Your Calorie Burn
2. Switch from canned to frozen.
It's not always easy to eat fresh produce. But instead of switching to canned version, choose frozen instead. Most frozen veggies have simply been cooked and then frozen within hours of being picked, so they are almost as good as the fresh version and last a lot longer and don't have sodium added (just be sure to check the label of your favorite brand). Hollywood Weight-Loss Secrets
3. Check the label on your favorite breakfast cereal.
Some cereals contain as much as 1,000 mg of sodium per serving (and who eats just one serving at a sitting?) - even many low fat and low sugar varieties. Look for a cereal with less than 250 mg per serving.
Related: 10 Ways to Beat Bloat
4. Drink plenty of water.
Dehydration is usually the number one reason most people crave salt (and sugar!). Excessive hunger and fatigue are also common symptoms of dehydration, so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. And even mild dehydration is enough to set your body down the cravings spiral. Do you sweat a lot at the gym? Good for you! But be sure to increase your water intake on the days you do tough workouts to help ward off dehydration.
Related: Fix Your Worst Health Habits Fast
5. Skip bottled salad dressings.
Trying to be healthy by eating a salad? Watch what you put on it. Most bottled salad dressings (especially low fat or fat free versions) pack a big sodium wallop. Make your own instead with ingredients like olive oil, lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.
Related: The Foolproof Way to Stay on Track with Your Weight-Loss Goals
Sources: "The Salt/Sugar Connection" by Richard Hackworth, American Heart Association.
Jessica Smith is a certified fitness lifestyle expert and creator of the 10 Pounds Down DVD series.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.