Salt is good for you?!
Perhaps you’ve heard some of the buzz in the health blog world about salt. Perhaps you are asking yourself, salt is good for me? Yep, it is! The idea is contrary to the pretty blatant lies told to us by the American Heart Association… and thank goodness, because salt makes food taste amazing.
There is no need to suffer through bland, unsalted meals in the sake of health. Here are 12 reasons why salt is good for you:
1. The premise that salt leads to hypertension has never been scientifically supported. On the contrary, studies show that a reduced-sodium diet leads to health issues. In one study, subjects consuming less than 2300 mg. (the recommended daily allowance) of sodium per day had significantly higher mortality rates (meaning a higher risk of death) than the subjects consuming 2300 mg. or more sodium per day.
2. Salt aids blood sugar control by improving insulin sensitivity. A low-salt diet increases insulin resistance and even moderate dietary salt restriction is shown to cause systemic insulin resistance (study #1 and #2).
3. Salt is a natural antihistamine. A pinch of salt sprinkled on the tongue may help improve an allergic reaction or an asthma attack (source).
4. Your body needs salt to maintain the proper stomach pH. Stomach acid is hydrochloric acid and salt is sodium chloride. Proper stomach acid levels are absolutely foundational for good digestion, but 90% of Americans have low stomach acid. Learn how to correct low stomach acid naturally.
5. Salt lowers adrenaline spikes. Adrenaline is a necessary and important stress hormone, but it is just that… a stress hormone. When adrenaline patterns are out of rhythm, it takes a toll on the body (source).
6. Salt improves sleep quality. It boasts anti-stress and anti-excitatory qualities due to its suppression of stress hormones and it increasing of the metabolic rate. This may explain why many people report that a low sodium diet interferes with sleep and an adequate amount of dietary salt improves sleep quality.
Interestingly, if you often wake up with your heart pounding between 2 and 4 AM, it is probably because of an adrenaline spike. The most important change is to reduce both physical and mental stress, as well as eating a healthy diet. But one immediate fix to help you go back to sleep is just a pinch of salt and sugar (or salt and honey, if you prefer) sprinkled on the tongue to calm the adrenaline peak (read more about it in this book!).
7. Adequate salt consumption encourages a healthy weight and fast metabolism. First, one study showed that increased salt intake leads to an increase in the elimination of cortisol and lower blood cortisol levels. Imbalanced or excess cortisol means weight gain and a stagnant metabolism.
8. Salt supports thyroid function by reducing circulating stress hormones. For example, cortisol is anti-thyroid, but salt combats excess cortisol.
9. Salt supports hyperosmolarity of the extracellular fluid. Slight hyperosmolarity–more solutes in the extracellular fluid than in the cell–actually increases the cell’s metabolic rate (source). That means salt can speed up your metabolism! On the other hand, when the extracellular fluid is hypo-osmotic in relation to the cell, it impairs the breakdown of proteins and glucose and thereby lowers the cell’s metabolism.
10. Increased sodium intake also correlates with increased thermogenesis–heat production by the body (the study is here).
11. Adequate salt supports balanced hormones. Hormone and nutrition researcher Ray Peat explains the correlation between the salt-regulating hormone aldosterone and mineral loss:
One of the things that happen when there isn’t enough sodium in the diet is that more aldosterone is synthesized. Aldosterone causes less sodium to be lost in the urine and sweat, but it achieves that at the expense of the increased loss of potassium, magnesium, and probably calcium… Magnesium deficiency is extremely common, but a little extra salt in the diet makes it easier to retain the magnesium in our foods.
12. Salt makes food taste good. Salt adds a satiety factor to food and makes meals enjoyable. Adequate salt content of food makes it easier to enjoy quality instead of quantity, thereby encouraging mindful eating and weight management.
What salt is best?
Salt is good for you if it is the right type. With that said, regular processed salt is better than no salt, that’s for sure. But the better option is unrefined salt, which is rich in trace minerals and free of additives.
I had the opportunity to speak with a salt expert at Real Salt, and I asked him how the popular types of unrefined salt compare. We discussed Real Salt, Himalayan Salt and Celtic Sea Salt. As it turns out, these salts share an extremely similar mineral profile. While some producers of himalayan salt boast that their salt contains 84 trace minerals, that is a false marketing claim. These three types of unrefined salts all contain about 60 important trace minerals, although the amounts of minerals vary slightly from salt to salt.
Oh, this is obvious but I should say it anyways… don’t rely on high-sodium processed food for salt! That is not a good source of sodium. Make food from scratch and salt it yourself.
How much salt should I eat?
Food should be salted freely and to taste. When the metabolism is slow and the thyroid is not optimally functioning, it may be beneficial to consume extra salt whenever possible. This could include salting all beverages and using liberal salt when cooking and baking.
If you have kidney disease or hypertension, it is a good idea to consult with a medical practitioner before increasing salt intake.
Most importantly, listen to your body. Let your salt craving and desire for seasoning dictate how much salt to consume.
Have you been on a low-sodium diet? How does salt fit into your life now?
Bevery M Grasso
I noticed that age is never mentioned. At the age of 70+ you should not consume more than 1200mg of salt a day. If you are label conscience and read them you will find out that EVERYTHING has sodium/salt. When I kept my sodium at 1200mg a day, I lost 7-10 lbs a week. So next time please write a correct article that deals with age. 0-50 years it should be 2400mg a day, 50-70 years should be 1500mg a day. and 70+ 1200mg a day. Notice I am not saying NOT to eat salt, just to monitor.
Thanks, that’s EXACTLY the advice my doctor gave me. I was no salt and after test, I got a report “Sodium too low. Our bodies require salt to properly function.”
You also have to apply common sense. If you are working or exercising and consequently sweating you will need more salt than someone who is sitting in am air conditioned house all day. also, you say “everything” has salt. That may be true if you are eating processed foods, but if you are making it yourself, “everything” most certainly does not contain salt.
“I lost 7-10 lbs a week”
You sure that wasn’t mostly water weight?
Ryan T McElmurry
Why would you eat More of foods that Don’t taste good? Wtf does quality vs quantity have to do with that, except in opposition to your failed “point”?
Since eating more salt and fat my health has dramatically improved. It is beginning to seem to me all the conventional wisdom I have learned over the last 60 years was wrong! More fat, more salt, more sun, less exercise (for me, as an extreme exerciser) have all restored my health and ability to maintain a slim body with ease. People need to listen to their bodies and come to their own conclusions. Why keep blindly following the conventional advise (to eat a low salt diet) if its not working? Isn’t that Einsteins recipe for insanity?
Gardengirl, thank you for posting this, this is what I have found to be true myself, for years I have been listening to low fat, less salt, more exercise, the only sound advice is no sugar!
Again, another mainstream bad belief! I recommend adding sugarcane crystals to vegan curries, especially hot spicy Indian and Thai curries…extremely healthy and beneficial!
What are the true benefits of any sugar based product?? Please, enlighten me.
Very good idea
You should listen to your body, and only to your body, over and over again. Then the question how much your salt intake should be doesn’t bother at all. If you are in doubt, just listen to your body and move that ass!
I love salt in my food, it gives it flavor. These days everything that taste good is bad. I know when a food is too salty by the taste, not by peeping at the container with a magnifying glass.
This is excellent information, but why can’t you use common terminology when discussing amounts of any item to be consumed. I don’t live in your world of mg, etc. What the heck does 2300mg = in tsp measurements? That’s the measurement most of us common folk deal in. Im quite certain Im not the only person that gets frustrated with the use of scientific measurements; I think many people just stop reading rather than looking up a conversion for amounts spewed about. If nothing else it would be helpful if at the end of articles, you, and frankly all other guilty parties in the US, routinely inserted a conversion table or equivalent, for those of us not familiar with scientific measurements, to consult.
1 gram is 1000 milligrams, which is a unit of mass. You can’t measure that in tablespoons. It’s basic middle school science, there’s no excuse for not knowing it. Anyway, 2300 mg of salt will end up being less than a teaspoon
Thank you you and you and everybody!!! I grew up on a farm and ate the food we grew, and salt is and was simply a necessity. BUT all my life (I’m 78) I’ve been crucified for eating too much salt. I was and still am fairly athletic (age related), and veggies and fresh meat on the hoof does not come with salt, sooo the salt we ate was like bread. Then everybody thought salt was “bad”. I refused to listen and kept eating my salt. Just think about the ancient peoples – “salt” was their “money”. And now I understand, but reading this article and all the comments, that I have been doing the right thing for my body and I get to be the “one left standing”. Guess you’d have to say I’ve had a “love affair” with salt all my life, and till death do us part.
GardenGirl, you TOTALLY ROCK ! ! YOU TOTALLY GET IT !! But just one minor tweak. I believe we need to make the distinction between GOOD FAT and BAD FAT. And your comment about getting sunshine (vitamin D) is right on point.
There is emerging evidence that sunscreen not only CAUSES skin cancer ( which would explain the soaring skin cancer rates) but also BLOCKS vitamin D production.
If you like to drink alcohol, salt is super important. Either during drinking, after, or as soon as you wake up! I can’t stress this enough. Our ancestors knew this, but seems we’ve lost the habit. Do not grab a Coke or Sprite the morning after, go for a glass of salt water!