Just a pinch of salt can transform the taste of a dish. Food without salt is incomplete. But, as with all tasty things, salt is also hailed more often as a villain than not. As per studies, excess salt intake deteriorates your health to a significant extent. The research is right, but does this mean you completely quit sodium intake? No, what you need is a fine balance.
A low sodium diet can also affect you as your body doesn’t produce sodium on its own but depends on the dietary sources for it. Sodium is thus an essential mineral for bodily functions, not just to avoid deficiency but also to improve your health in many ways. Here are 5 reasons why salt may be good for your health.
1. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Although the link between salt and insulin sensitivity is unclear, studies have found that salt can improve insulin sensitivity.1 Resistance to insulin in your body increases blood sugar levels. By increasing insulin sensitivity, your body uses smaller amounts of insulin to regulate the blood sugar. When you reduce your salt intake, it increases the body’s insulin resistance, which directly affects your blood sugar.2
2. Maintains Fluid Balance
Lack of sodium can lead to dehydration and too much sodium can result in water retention. Minerals like sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate, and magnesium are electrolytes that help maintain the right amount of water in your body and balance the pH levels.3 Without the right amount of salt, the sodium-potassium balance is maintained. These 2 electrolytes ensure that there is a proper fluid balance inside and outside the cells in your body.
3. Regulates Blood Pressure
Sufficient intake of water and potassium, paired with a moderate amount of salt, can help your body regulate blood pressure. A study found that maintaining the right sodium to potassium ratio is more effective in reducing blood pressure in hypertensive patients than just sodium or potassium alone.4
While some studies suggest that salt intake can lower blood pressure, other suggest that lowering your salt consumption helps to lower pressure. However, other than your salt intake, your blood pressure also depends on other factors such as physical activity, age, stress, and alcohol consumption.
4. Aids Brain And Muscle Function
The sodium content in salt is essential for the normal functioning of the brain, nervous system, and muscles. Apart from regulating the amount of water in the body, it is also responsible for transmitting electric signals or nerve impulses. These signals ensure the smooth functioning of your senses and your nerves.5
5. Boosts Digestion
Salt plays a vital role in digestion. It helps your body produce the right amount of the stomach acid hydrogen chloride. This acid not only kills the harmful bacteria in the food but also promotes the release of enzymes that aid digestion. So naturally, low salt intake affects the stomach acid level and digestive health.
Instead of using highly processed table salt, opt for natural salts that have a higher mineral content and limited or no chemicals. To stay healthy, avoid canned foods or packed foods that are full of processed salts. And, be it table salt or natural salt, remember that moderation is the key. But what is the right amount? While the ideal salt intake depends on your health issues, the recommended amount for Americans aged 4 and above is 2,400 milligrams per day, which is a safe upper limit. Consult your doctor to get it right.
|↑1||Townsend, Raymond R., Shiv Kapoor, and Christopher B. McFadden. “Salt intake and insulin sensitivity in healthy human volunteers.” Clinical Science 113, no. 3 (2007): 141-148.|
|↑2||Oh, Hyunwoo, Hyo Young Lee, Dae Won Jun, and Seung Min Lee. “Low Salt Diet and Insulin Resistance.” Clinical nutrition research 5, no. 1 (2016): 1-6.|
|↑3||Fluid and Electrolyte Balance. MedlinePlus.|
|↑4||Perez, Vanessa, and Ellen T. Chang. “Sodium-to-potassium ratio and blood pressure, hypertension, and related factors.” Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 5, no. 6 (2014): 712-741.|
|↑5||Landowne, D. “Movement of sodium ions associated with the nerve impulse.” Nature 242, no. 5398 (1973): 457-459.|