This is a post that I had on my list of writing for quite some time. Salt – is it good or bad for you? I do feel that there is a lot of conflicting information out there about salt and whether it may provide more harm than good. Let’s dive in.
What to Use Salt For In the Kitchen?
Before we go into the topic of whether it is good or bad for you – let us first explore what we can actually use it for in the kitchen. Salt has been used for centuries and it is excellent in enhancing flavors, balancing flavors (especially counteracting bitterness), preserving food, and influencing the texture when baking.
What is Salt?
Salt is made of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Both of these are minerals that play an important role in our bodies. Sodium is needed for muscle contraction. When we lose fluid through, for example, sweating, a lack of sodium can lead to muscle cramping. This is especially prominent in athletes. Sodium is also needed for optimal nerve functioning and plays a role in regulating blood volume and blood pressure. Chloride, on the other hand, is an electrolyte, which helps both with nerve impulses and fluid regulations. Low levels of chloride in the blood may result in carbon dioxide building in our blood, making it more acidic.
Whilst some people do not appear to be reacting badly to a diet that is a bit higher in salt, others may experience negative health impacts. Let us explore those next.
Salt – Potential Risks and Benefits
A higher salt intake has, in part, been linked to a higher risk of developing stomach cancer. Whereas this link has not been fully established as such, evidence suggests that there is at least an association between the two. This may be because salt allows a certain bacteria to grow in the stomach, which has been linked to said stomach cancer.
Lower Salt Intake May Lower Blood Pressure
We have discussed the link between heart disease and blood pressure, as well as blood fat levels (cholesterol) at length here on the blog. In fact, it appears to be almost a recurring weekly topic 🤣. A lowered salt intake may lower blood pressure levels, especially in people whose blood pressure levels are already elevated. Some people are a lot more salt-sensitive than others and it appears that for those people, the effect when lowering salt intake is clearly the highest. Nevertheless, if you are having high blood pressure levels, evidence suggests that a lowered salt intake may help in regards to this.
Low Salt Intake Can Have Negative Effects on Your Blood Fat Levels
Several studies have shown that not enough salt in the body can lead to heightened blood fat levels. In these studies, both the “bad” cholesterol levels, as well as triglyceride levels were going up. There also appeared to be a connection with a decreased sensitivity to insulin.
What Salts to Choose?
There are some better salt options to choose from and some not-so-good ones. Regular table salt has been highly processed and stripped of all its minerals. In addition, it usually has fortified iodine added and contains anti-clumping agents so that your salt can be shaken out of a salt shaker. Try to avoid this salt – as there are many great options instead. Himalayan pink salt, sea salt, Celtic salt, or even black salt are all (amongst others) great options. Choose a “natural” salt option and then play with the taste to their liking. All salts have a slightly different flavor profile and also draw out slightly different flavors in food – have a play around and see what you like best 🥰.
My Personal Take on Salt
I think what both this post and the evidence show us is that salt is needed in our bodies. Too much salt is not good for us, as is too little. This is the case for almost any food and food group – balance is (always) key!! The likelihood that you are a regular reader of this blog is high. With that, I am also assuming the likelihood that you are already consuming a primarily whole-food-based diet is high. I, personally, do not worry about my salt intake.
However, if you were eating a lot of ready meals, and so-called “TV dinners” these will contain a lot of salt due to salt also carrying flavor (whilst being a relatively cheap ingredient). Perhaps it is worth thinking about your salt intake and checking with a health care professional of your choice and trust. I hope the above has provided you with a bit of background on this topic though in order to for you to make informed decisions!
And if you want to dive more into some other macronutrient topics, be sure to check out the following posts: