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Why is it that salty things make me hungry for sweet things, and sweet things make me hungry for salty things?
July 17, 2006 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Why is it that salty things make me hungry for sweet things, and sweet things make me hungry for salty things?
posted by stokast to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
 
Is it possible that what you really are is thirsty? I have this problem, and it seems to be that water usually fixes it. No idea what the science is behind it, but if you don't drink a lot of water.... try it.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:17 AM on July 17, 2006


We are programmed to seek variety in our diet so as to try, as much as possible, to nutritionally balance it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:32 AM on July 17, 2006


I have read that people need a variety of flavors (I think there were 7 flavors or tastes listed...like sweet, sour, bitter, and so on) in order to feel satisfied with a meal. I remember that this was mentioned in Victoria Moran's book Fit From Within.
posted by tastybrains at 12:26 PM on July 17, 2006


Because enough is too much.
posted by Rash at 12:32 PM on July 17, 2006


Other possible factors:

Sweet and salty are sooo good together. Yum.

Over the past few years, I've become more accustomed to ordering dessert at the end of a meal at restaurants. So now I crave something sweet after eating savory things more often than I did before.
posted by lampoil at 12:55 PM on July 17, 2006


Your're programmed to try and get water from food rather than drinking water. In nature, sweet things are usually fruit, so you're body's trying to balance out the salt?
posted by lunkfish at 1:37 PM on July 17, 2006


My answer is a variation on lunkfish's and dpx.mfx's. Your body metabolizes sweets to water and carbon dioxide, so when you eat them, your body needs salt in order to maintain the proper salt balance, and so you crave salt. When you eat salt, your body needs water to maintain salt balance, so you crave sweets, which are metabolized to water.
posted by jamjam at 2:29 PM on July 17, 2006


Jamjam, there isn't very much water produced that way. Some, but not very much.

But getting water from fruit is better than from streams because streams are loaded with parasites. (In Africa, where we evolved.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:11 PM on July 17, 2006


Good point, Steven C. Den Beste-- so if, in a state of nature, sweets are roughly equivalent to fruits, and fruits are one of the few sources of safe water, when you eat sweets your body craves salt because it has evolved in a situation where intake of sweets means a lot of water as well, and your body anticipates the need for extra salt to compensate? And when you eat salt you need water, so your body craves sweet because it's evolved where that means the necessary water?

Whole lotta volvin' goin' on there, but with an element of plausibility, perhaps.
posted by jamjam at 3:51 PM on July 17, 2006


Following up on tastybrains, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, sweets are "moistening" and "expansive," while salts draw things "inward" which is why they're so used in winter, when all your energy is in the core of your body. If that makes any sense. IANA specialist, and I'm forgetting something else relevant about "the five flavors," but you could check out the book Healing with Whole Foods for more of this angle.
posted by salvia at 5:15 PM on July 17, 2006


I remember hearing a long time ago that it had something to do with balance within your cells. Some kind of sweet-salt balance. Can't find much on that in an initial google sweep, but here's something that's sort of in the neighborhood - homeostatic balance.

Also, snackmakers know the real deal behind this and they definitely use it. It is known, so I bet you could find info on it. Think of some of the irresistable snacks, the ones that make you keep eating and eating. Wheat Thins. They are a salty cracker but also kind of sweet. Munch munch munch. Oreos, sweet but a bit salty. Munch munch munch. Digestives and their many variant cousins (e.g., the Carr's Wheatmeal biscuit, the only good item in the mixed pack of crackers). Snickers. Payday. Chocolate-covered pretzels. You cannot resist.

Something's going on there. We are being manipulated! RISE UP, SIBLINGS!
posted by kookoobirdz at 6:50 PM on July 17, 2006


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