Historically, salt has been a precious commodity. “Not only did salt serve to flavor and preserve food, it made a good antiseptic, which is why the Roman word for these salubrious crystals (sal) is a first cousin to Salus, the goddess of health.”
Salt is of the earth. “People who are described as ‘the salt of the earth’ are those who are considered to be of great worth and reliability.”
With salt formation, solid form and stillness precipitate out of fluidity. In this way, salt is connected to wakefulness, our abstract grasping of concepts. Salt stimulates our thinking, our making connections, like an intricate web of roots.
Nowadays, public health representatives have us wary of salt; we associate it with heart disease. Less is better, we think. A salt-controlled diet (1500mg to 2300mg) such as the DASH diet is touted.
For some people this is smart. There are salt-sensitive people as well as people with kidney problems or heart failure who are best to stay in this zone. But not everyone.
Evidence shows that salt affects individuals differently and may not have as much of an impact on heart disease as once believed. Careful nuance is needed. The right amount of salt is different for everyone and some people need more! This bulletin will list several surprising benefits of salt ingestion.
The basic premise here is: Salt has important health benefits. It is not simply a toxin. Actually, sufficient salt is a critical part of a healthy diet. You might benefit from more salt in your diet!
First important distinction: We are not talking about high-sodium processed foods, by the way. Yes, we should avoid those. I am advocating a whole food diet — high in potassium (plant food) with sufficient unrefined salt (Real Salt, Himalayan Salt, and Celtic Sea Salt, for example, which are rich in trace minerals). One can’t really make a blanket statement about salt when there are such divergent pictures of diet.
Have a glance here at the top benefits of adequate salt, which in some people certainly could be more than 2 or 3000mg daily:
- aids blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity
- is a natural antihistamine
- lowers adrenaline spikes
- improves sleep quality
- improves thyroid function
- balances hormones
- helps us hydrate
- tastes good and satiates the appetite
How to proceed? Let’s look at some specifics. Americans on average consume 3500mg or higher of salt (sodium chloride) daily. Is less sodium actually better or is it a higher potassium that’s needed?
A lot of studies aren’t actually comparing isolated high-salt diets to low-salt ones. The DASH diet is higher in potassium-rich foods and whole foods and lower in processed foods and alcohol. It’s this whole picture that is often tested against the standard American diet, higher in salt, yes, but distinct in other ways from the DASH diet as well.
And when we compare salt to salt?
There are times we have looked at lower salt diets compared with higher salt ones, and diets under 2300mg (low salt diets) often aren’t significantly better. Consider a 2015 study in JAMA Internal Medicine that found sodium intake wasn’t associated with a mortality benefit in a 10 year study in older Americans.
The truest statement science can make about it, and one that is often attached to studies, is “continued research on the effects of salt intake on heart health is needed — both in people with and without hypertension.”
Well, be informed that salt’s benefits are plentiful. Some people need more salt than they take. Who, you ask? Here are some possible signs you could have too little salt in your diet:
- Low blood pressure
- Leg Cramps
- Low sodium levels in the blood
- Elevated LDL and triglycerides
You might be underdoing it. If you’re not salt sensitive and if you don’t have kidney issues or heart issues we might need to talk about liberalizing sodium intake with a natural unrefined salt, especially if you are currently restricting it. Blood tests can be a guide. Some salt proponents say sodium should probably be in the upper range of normal, as should the chloride.
- These are unprecedented times. Soils are depleted and toxic environmental exposures increase every year. We are undernourished despite overeating. Before tinkering with obscure supplements, the first question should be: Is my salt intake sufficient? Dozens of trace minerals are also contained in unrefined salts.
- You can make a mistake here. You need to learn to know if you are salt sensitive and learn to see if more salt helps you or is harmful. Do you retain fluid by adding more salt? Does your blood pressure increase? As long as you pay attention, you are able to explore. And many people testify that they benefit from increased sodium, in the context of a healthy whole-food diet, low in alcohol.
What’s agreed upon:
- Everyone needs salt. A low-salt diet can go too far. Low-salt diets become harmful if they restrict too much.
- People with impaired kidneys should be careful. Stay on a low-salt diet.
- In addition, there are people who are salt-sensitive, and high-salt meals will cause fluid retention and elevated BP. But, this isn’t everyone.
- Some people need higher levels of salt. And the benefits of adequate salt are surprising.
Here’s to your pursuit of health and balance!
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