Is salt bad for you, and is Himalayan pink or iodized salt good for you? Let's explore how much sodium we need and why with 7 FAQs.
Familiar staple or concerning additive?
'Is salt bad for you' has become a trending online search.
It's no wonder.
Salt, much like fat, has divided opinion in nutritional science.
As a result, navigating facts has become challenging.
Some nutritionists will recommend salt-free diets.
Others recommend liberal consumption.
Some suggest avoiding table salt and opting for pink Himalayan salt.
Ever wondered why?
There is no doubt that all human beings need sodium in some form, but should we add it to meals or look instead to consuming the right foods?
Let's explore seven frequently asked questions and find out more about dietary sodium intake within the context of a balanced diet.
Is sodium bad for you?
A high salt/sodium diet can cause hypertension (significantly elevated blood pressure).
According to the NHS, high blood pressure caused by excessive salt consumption can increase an individual's heart disease and stroke risk.
All nutritionists, wellness coaches, and fitness instructors will promote the idea of balance.
They promote a balanced diet, lifestyle, and routine.
Balance also applies to sodium intake.
Is too much sodium bad for you? Absolutely.
Is too little sodium bad for you? Most likely.
Is the right amount for what you require harmful for you? No.
Apples and bananas are two commonly consumed foods containing known-to-be poisonous compounds in such small quantities that they rarely cause issues.
Eat 12 of them, and maybe you are more likely to notice these toxic compounds.
If you overconsume sodium, you can impact the balance of electrolytes within your body.
Sodium is an electrolyte.
Electrolytes are positively or negatively electrically charged particles essential to many bodily processes found in the blood, sweat and urine.
They keep us hydrated and play a vital role in allowing our nerves to signal to one another.
They regulate our internal acidity (pH) and influence how our body moves and takes up fluids.
When electrolytes work together, balance is essential.
Too much sodium can impact potassium and vice versa.
So to answer, "is sodium bad for you" you would have to conclude with no! However, too much or too little could be harmful like all things.
What is Salt? (NaCl)
Salt is a mineral (like crystals and rocks) mainly composed of sodium chloride.
It is naturally present and makes up 3.5% of open ocean water.
As mentioned previously, sodium is an electrolyte that is electrically charged and vital to a host of processes within the body ranging from hydration to neurological function.
In addition to occurring naturally, we also manufacture salt using "a neutralisation reaction" (reacting an acid with a base).
There are many different forms, including Himalayan pink salt, table salt, sea salt, Epsom salts, and even onion salt!
- Table salt is more often factory produced using the neutralisation reaction mentioned above.
- Iodized salt tends to be a standard manufactured table salt fortified with iodine (you can find iodine in seaweed)
- Himalayan pink salt is a rock salt mined from the Salt Range mountains in the Punjab region of Pakistan.
- Sea salt is pretty self-explanatory - it is salt produced by evaporating seawater.
- Epsom salt (bath salts/magnesium sulfate) is not sodium chloride, and its use is reportedly therapeutic and not typically for consumption.
- Onion/garlic/celery salt describe table salt mixed with a herb/seasoning.
Why do we need salt?
Salt is essential for muscle and nerve function and regulating fluids within the body.
Many processes in our body depend in some way on electrical conductivity.
For this reason, every cell in our body relies on salt.
Salt is an electrolyte - meaning salt has an electric charge (positive or negative).
I'll keep this brief.
- Opposites attract
- Two of the same repel
If a cell lets in a lot of this charged salt, the cell becomes a repellant of anything with the same charge (positive magnets repel positive magnets).
Conversely, if a cell contains far less salt than the surrounding areas, it will have the opposite charge and utilise it to bring salt into the cell.
This process of electrical movement is behind every nerve that functions within our mind and body.
Without sodium ions from salt present, we could struggle to think, move and perceive efficiently.
On top of the above, it plays a vital role in sustaining and regulating our hydration levels and utilisation/movement of fluids.
Is pink Himalayan salt good for you?
Salt is salt.
However, mined rock salts are far superior to manufactured table salts in delivering additional minerals and nutrients, including potassium and iodine.
Mined in the Punjab region of Pakistan, pink Himalayan salt contains additional minerals compared with manufactured alternatives.
Overeating Himalayan pink salt can still lead to the same internal changes, including elevated blood pressure, just in the same way as table salt.
However, if the question is "is Himalayan salt good for you" compared with regular salt? Yes, it can provide more nutrients/electrolytes, but it cannot curb the harmful effects of excessive consumption.
Is too much salt bad for you, and how much salt is dangerous?
Yes, too much salt is bad for you.
Some reports find around 1g per kg of body weight is dangerous.
According to the British Heart Foundation, 2.5g of sodium or 6g of salt should be the maximum daily intake for the average adult.
Too much salt can cause an increase in your blood pressure and thus increase risk factors for multiple issues, including heart disease and stroke.
However, salt is not, therefore, automatically problematic.
Too much or too little is the issue, not the sodium itself.
Avoiding high-salt foods like processed meats, cheese, and other animal products would be a great place to start.
It is always advisable to opt for whole foods over and above anything processed.
A whole-food, plant-based diet, when balanced, is capable of delivering more than enough sodium.
Is iodized salt good for you?
Iodised salt is a chemically manufactured table salt artificially fortified with iodine.
The table salt used is essential to addressing whether or not iodized salt is good for you.
A manufactured salt has minimal additional minerals and nutrients beyond sodium and chloride.
While iodine has plenty of observable benefits, you can find it in various foods - including seaweed.
Iodine can be beneficial, but iodized salt is not the necessary means for you to attain sufficient iodine.
If you ever use salt, it would always be advisable to opt for a naturally occurring rock salt above something manufactured.
Is salt bad for weight loss?
Salt reductions may lead to weight reductions.
Not fat. Weight.
The weight loss is due to reduced sodium and water.
The achievement is only weight reduction caused by less water and sodium presence and therefore will not be helpful for continued weight loss or fat loss.
The fat levels in your body do not always correlate to your weight and will remain unchanged by only removing salt.
However, the research is limited.
Results: I went salt-free for one week. What happened?
So here's the deal - I did not go salt-free.
I consumed my regular diet without adding cooking/seasoning salts or table salts to my meals for a week.
I recorded my average blood pressure throughout the week prior and compared it against my scores during the salt-free week.
The results were a 20mmMg reduction in my systolic pressure and a 10mmMg reduction in my diastolic blood pressure.
This test is not a clinical trial, and the results are relatively meaningless.
However, I changed nothing else about my diet during this time.
I consistently achieved a reduced blood pressure compared with the same testing monitor during higher salt intakes the week prior.