Do we need salt?


My thoughts on...

Do we need salt?

DO we need salt?

The body contains many salts at a concentration of 0.4% of the body’s weight; so a person weighing 50kg will have 200g approximately. It is essential for bodily function at a cellular level. It is needed for the absorption of nutrients, digestion and transmission of nerve impulses. A healthy body is able to self-regulate our salt requirements. 17% of salt we get comes naturally from the foods we eat; these are whole foods. The remainder comes from us adding salt to our diet, for example when we are cooking. 

I don't add any salt to my food or cooking.

There is no evidence to suggest eating a low sodium diet or one reduced in salt prevents heart attacks, strokes or death. However the majority of sodium we consume today comes from highly processed foods. If we eat a diet which mainly consists of whole foods and vegetables and we lead a healthy lifestyle which involves movement and exercise as well as rest and sleep, then we should not, in theory, have to worry about our salt intake. On the contrary, if we eat this type of a diet we need to ensure we have enough salt. 

So what is the difference between all the salts on the market today?

Many different types of salt which vary in texture, taste and mineral content.  

Refined Regular Table Salt:

Highly refined so impurities and minerals have been removed. It is the most commonly used. It can contain iodine which is important to prevent health issues such as hypothyroidism. However we can get iodine from other sources such as fish, eggs, dairy, seaweed.

Sea Salt:

Made by evaporating sea salt, it contains mainly sodium chloride and other trace minerals such as potassium, iron and zinc. However because of the pollution of our seas by plastic we need to be careful as the sea salts may contain microplastics and traces of heavy metals which we should be avoiding. Sea salt has a quite coarse texture. 

Himalayan Pink Salt:

Mined in Pakistan from the Khawra Salt mines. Iron oxide gives it its pink colour. It is slightly lower in sodium than table salt but higher in calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. 

Black Himalayan Salt 

Again mined from the same region but it has its origin in volcanic activity which gives it its unique colour and pungent sulphurous smell. 

Commonly used in some Indian dishes it contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium and has a relatively low sodium content. It contains antioxidants and helps with digestion, bloating and heartburn. 

There are no scientific studies which suggest that one type is better than the other, or that if we are healthy that we should avoid salt altogether. 

Key factors:

  1. Eat less processed foods which will really help you to reduce excess salt. 
  2. Eat a diet which focuses on whole foods with a wide variety of plants(herbs, species, vegetables and fruits).
  3. Exercising and moving each day, portion control, mindful eating are all an important part of supporting our body to be able to regulate how much salt it needs.
  4. Salt is important for our mind and bodily functions. 
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