Go On....Shake Shake Shake that Salt
Most of us are familiar with the idea that 'sodium is bad for us'. We've been told this for decades and it's become part of common knowledge as something associated with heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes and a bad diet. People who add salt to their meals are being rebellious and naughty and over indulgent and those of us who avoid salt - well, we're being good right?
Wrong. It's much more complex....
Here's some quick facts about salt that might help you unravel this:
- Salt provides an essential mineral for the body, it's a source of sodium along with other trace minerals that may be present depending on how the salt is mined and processed.
- As an essential mineral, sodium is vital for maintaining fluid balance, supporting muscle function, assisting with blood volume, nerve conduction, blood sugar balance and overall homeostasis. (It's really really important)
- It is estimated that 70-90% of dietary salt in western style diets comes from processed foods that are unnaturally higher than real foods in sodium. This is why eating a natural whole food diet is a natural way to decrease salt intake, or become salt deficient.
- Past research on salt did not differentiate the relationship between sodium and other factors like glucose status. Dr James Dinicolantino - author of The Salt Fix - has written about research indicating that when we restrict our salt intake too much, the body produces more insulin to retain the salt we do have. This biochemical feedback leads to more blood glucose, less blood flow to the organs, a loss of magnesium and calcium through sweat, and many other adverse health outcomes. Yikes!
With all of this in mind, if you're following a traditionally 'healthy diet' it's possible that you might not be getting enough salt. Perhaps those of us not eating a highly processed diet in fact need to add salt to our meals? Hmmmm.
Here are some signs it might be time to increase your salt intake:
- Exercise - sodium is an electrolyte and along with magnesium and calcium we lose it through sweat. If you're active and on the move, you may have a higher need.
- Thirst - if you are feeling thirsty often it might mean you are not hydrating well, even if you're drinking water. Read more about hydration and electrolytes in this past blog.
- Craving salt - the body tends to know what it needs, if you're getting salt cravings this is a clue that you might not want to ignore. Go on....shake it til you make it!
- Low blood pressure - increasing salt along with fluid is often a good way to help symptoms associated with low blood pressure such as fatigue and light headedness.
- Poor sleep - while it is unclear if lack of sleep causes dehydration or dehydration causes lack of sleep, there is definately a relationship between these factors afffecting the circadium rhythm and also melatonin production. A good way to check if this is impacting you is to hydrate during the day (please don't wait til bedtime!) and see if this easy change makes a difference to your nighttime rest.
How do you know if you really do need more salt?
Listen to your body.
Crazy as it may sound - not eating enough salt can be harmful to the body. Deficiency can trigger an increase in glucose, a reduction of blood flow to organs, and the subsequent loss of magnesium and calcium.
Your body will give you signs when you’re not consuming enough salt so pay attention to thirst, salt cravings, decreased urination, dry skin and mouth, cold extremities, loss of skin elasticity and of course your energy levels.
With so many good natural salts to choose from - whether fine salt, coarse salt, salt flakes, sea salt, lake salt, himalayan salt or celtic salt - we are welcoming with open arms all that salty flavour so essential to life. While getting the right amount of salt might require a personal approach to get right, our tastebuds are sure happy we're bringing it back to the table.
Did you know we made a video about salt a few years back? Have a watch
Note: Please be sensible and check with your individual health practitioner before adding more salt or making other dietary changes. This is not medical advice.
Written by Sita Huber, BHsc (Nutritional Medicine)
Nutritionist & Digital Marketing Manager at Edible Island