You’ve seen the marketing on food – “sodium free” or “reduced salt!” are used as sale’s tactics to move products off the shelf. This is similar to how you see “gluten free” labels on food that shouldn’t have had any question as to whether or not there was a wheat protein in it. But is salt the enemy?
Our bodies depend on salt, an essential nutrient, to live. In the book, Salt Fix, Dr. James DiNicolantonio explains,
“too little salt in the diet can shift the body into semi-starvation mode and cause insulin resistance, and may even cause you to absorb twice as much fat for every gram you consume. Too little salt in certain populations can actually increase blood pressure, as well as resting heart rate.”
We not only need salt, but we also owe it an apology for how wrongly we have demonized it.
Adequate salt intake can help hydrate us, contract muscles, ensure proper breathing, nourish our cells, transmit nerve signals, and maintain proper heart function. Salt plays a roll in the digestive process as well, as it begins to activate salivary glands in the mouth that then release amylase. Not to mention it can help break down food by stimulating hydrochloric acid and a protein-digestive enzyme. That is, the proper amount and quality of salt can help regulate and heal our bodies.
The reason salt has been put as public enemy #1 is when refined table salts come into play. Another factor is when excessive amounts are added to processed foods. Table salts are stripped of their natural minerals during a process of mining poor quality rock salts and drying it in large kilns.
“There exists a range of sodium intake that likely confers the best health outcomes for most people. As I explained in part 3, findings from a 2011 study demonstrate the lowest risk of death for sodium excretion between 4000 and 5990 milligrams per day. Sodium excretion greater than 7000 milligrams or less than 3000 milligrams per day was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart attack and death. This lowest risk range equates to approximately two to three teaspoons of salt per day.” - Chris Kresser
“But I can’t give up salt!” – someone from the back of the room yells. Well, good news for you, sir! You don’t have to give up anything. Just make a switch. Swap out all of your table salt for natural salts that still contain their original nutrients and minerals. Natural salts include sea salt (mined from the sea) with brands like “Celtic Sea Salt” and “Real Salt.” Himalayan salts (mined from ancient salt beds in the Himalayan mountains) are another type of salt that is still loaded with dozens of trace minerals. The golden amount is typically between 2-3 teaspoons a day.
Go ahead, enjoy some natural salt sprinkled on your veggies. Let the salt help hydrate you by preventing too much plain water from over-diluting the water. See if you can notice the effects on sleep as salt is known to reduce cortisol and adrenaline (two “stress” hormones). Maybe you add some to enjoy the glowing skin and improved energy that minerals are known to promote. Whatever you reason is, make sure to play with this smartly. Some people need more salt than others for various reasons. Always ask your physician before any major diet changes if you are currently on any medications or specific diets for medical reasons. Enjoy your (reasonably) salty food and good mood!