The weather is getting warmer, people start the sweat more and dehydration is a possible side-effect of that. This is the right time to talk about something that might be one of the most discussed nutrition topics out there. Salt intake. Is it good or is it bad? or neither? Every time someone asks me about it, they’re surpised when I tell them to eat more salt. When someone told me they were starting to cramp up during workouts I asked them how much salt they were taking in. They thought I was hinting at the fact that they were taking in too much, I was actually hinting at that they probably aren’t taking in enough.
We all know that the internet is a place where everyone can post their own stories and opinions, just like I am doing with this blog. Does that mean you should take everything at face value? I think we all know the answer to that question by now. So why is it so easy to believe in something that has been debunked already and is not backed up by real facts. Yes, excessive amounts of salt is not a good thing but that is the same thing with everything else that has the words too much or excessive in front of it. Just like any other food that is preceded by those two words is simply too much. I am not saying that having “too much” salt/sodium is a good thing but I am arguing for the fact that appropriate salt consumption is a good thing. If you look at actual science and proper research, you will see that a good amount of sodium/salt is beneficial to your nutrition and health.
Let’s take a look at where our fear of salt and sodium consumption comes from and you can judge for yourself.
Have a look at this article published by Scientific America, the link to the full article will be down below.
It’s time to end the war on saltFears over salt first surfaced more than a century ago. In 1904 French doctors reported that six of their subjects who had high blood pressure—a known risk factor for heart disease—were salt fiends. Worries escalated in the 1970s when Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Lewis Dahl claimed that he had “unequivocal” evidence that salt causes hypertension: he induced high blood pressure in rats by feeding them the human equivalent of 500 grams of sodium a day. (Today the average American consumes 3.4 grams of sodium, or 8.5 grams of salt, a day.)
Dahl also discovered population trends that continue to be cited as strong evidence of a link between salt intake and high blood pressure. People living in countries with a high salt consumption—such as Japan—also tend to have high blood pressure and more strokes. But as a paper pointed out several years later in the American Journal of Hypertension, scientists had little luck finding such associations when they compared sodium intakes within populations, which suggested that genetics or other cultural factors might be the culprit. Nevertheless, in 1977 the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs released a report recommending that Americans cut their salt intake by 50 to 85 percent, based largely on Dahl’s work.
40 years ago a doctor decided to give an equivalent of our salt intake multiplied by 200 to a bunch of rats to see if it would cause high blood pressure. Of course that amount is going to cause harm to any physical body, not just rats. The sad thing is that this is the cause of a lot of peoples fear of salt/sodium intake.
First, we need to understand that salt/sodium is an essential mineral, that means the body is unable to produce it on it’s own and we needs to gain that mineral via food consumption. Like I mentioned earlier, any food or nutrient that you eat in excessive amounts is not the best thing for your health. I always use this example with broccoli: everyone knows and understands that broccoli is a “health food” but someone on this planet is going to find a problem with eating too much broccoli. It’s all about how the research and experiments are being done.
If I would start my own research on salt/sodium consumption and I would solely focus on just that, there’s a good chance I am missing out on a lot of other components that could potentially compromise and be harmful to our nutrition and health. Let’s take a look at another example here. If I would start my research and let my subject group go into MacDonald once a day, every day, I can be sure that the sodium levels are going to rise, but I think we’re missing the underlying issue/cause if we soley focus on salt consumption here. Salt itself is not necessarily the problem, the highly processed and unhealthy foods that are being eaten are the problem. This is why we need to look at the source of the information and make sure that the research covers the entire nutrition pattern.
What are the health benefits of salt?
One of the key benefits of salt intake is to keep the body hydrated. Salt helps with hydration and electrolyte balances within your body. This is key so your body can function properly. Your muscles and cells rely on water so they can do their job and salt helps you maintain those fluids within your body rather than sweating it all out. This last bit is especially important to think about if you’re someone who worksout regularly and loses more fluids by sweating, especially when it’s hot and humid out. There’s a chance of muscle cramps without the proper sodium concentration within your body. Essentially all endurance athletes use salt/electrolyte tablets to help them retain water and fluids because of how much water they use for energy production and by the sweat they lose. They realize how important it is to retain the fluids in their body. The retention of water and fluids in your body helps you be less susceptible to muscle cramps, dizziness and fatigue. Because salt consumption stimulates the retention of water it also has positive effect on low blood pressure.
I hope this blog gives you some insight on the benefits of salt consumption while being aware of the risk of excessive amounts.
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