In the fitness industry, it is very common to hear that a salt-free diet will help you look better— but is this really true?
We all know that salt in excess is very bad for your health, but did you know that it’s also harmful to completely eliminate salt from your diet? I believe that the body suffers when you completely eliminate foods, especially minerals, without a real and important reason.
Salt in moderation is very important to your diet because it helps balance electrolytes, and it also helps with adequate muscle contraction and water retention. It also has nutrients that are vital to your stomach and overall health.
Types of Salt
Refined salt: This salt is almost sodium chloride but the important thing is that this salt has often iodine and this iodine is crucial for metabolism, thyroid health and overall health. An alternative for iodine source is kelp. Besides the iodine found in refined salt, in my opinion this type of salt is the least healthy option.
Sea salt: It’s almost sodium chloride but has other minerals like potassium and iron. This option sounds healthy but you have to be concerned about a heavy metals content. Remember that, sadly, oceans are very contaminated.
Himalayan salt: This salt is harvested from Pakistan and has a pink color. This salt is my favorite! It contains minerals like magnesium and calcium.
Celtic salt: This salt is lower in sodium compared to the regular refined salt.
Electrolytes: Exercise, living in warm weather and doing regular activities can create an imbalance of our electrolytes. So it’s important to stay hydrated and consume minerals like sodium or potassium. When we consume water and a proper amount of salt in diet, our kidneys are able to keep the appropriate amount of electrolytes in our bloodstream, and this helps you keep a healthy blood pressure.
Prevents cramps: Salt has an important role in muscle contractions because salt also helps to keeps calcium, sodium and other minerals in the bloodstream. Salt also helps our adrenals glands work properly.
Healthy digestion: Salt stimulates salivary glands in your mouth to make an enzyme called salivary amylase, which is important for digestion. Salt also creates hydrochloric acid that is necessary for proper digestion.
Lack of Salt
Not getting enough sodium can result in dehydration, and when our body loses fluids it can have a huge impact in our health, including headaches, lack of concentration, reduced performance, seizures and in the worst cases even death.
Sodium deficiency can also dangerously lower the blood pressure. Hyponatremia (low blood sodium) is common in triathletes and people who don’t hydrate properly. People who do two or more hours more of cardio exercise really need to be very meticulous with their hydration and balance of electrolytes.
A healthy normal person only needs 500 mg sodium and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 2,400 mg sodium/day. 2,400-3,000 mg/day are the maximum recommended for a healthy person.
Excess Salt in the Diet Can Cause
Hypertension: To reduce the possibility of hypertension, increase the consumption of calcium, magnesium and potassium
High water retention
Balance is the answer for our health!
Sawka, M.N., Montain, S.J. (2000). Fluid and electrolyte supplementation for exercise heat stress. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 72:S564-72.