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  • Writer's pictureKaren Meisels

Not A Villain: Salt and Its Effects on Our Health & Wellness

When making healthy decisions about diet and nutrition, salt is often the first ingredient to be nixed, for many good reasons. But did you know that salt is absolutely essential for our overall health and well-being? Let’s take a look at how we can fine-tune our relationship with salt, to get health benefits out of ingesting the right kind of salt, while avoiding many of the health risks of consuming the wrong type of salt. After all, not all salt is created equal.

 a wooden spoon filled with coarse sea salt
Salt For Your Health

The Benefits of Salt

Yes, you read that right. There are several benefits of salt in your diet. For clarification, I am not referring to table salt, aka sodium chloride, which may be what you immediately think of when it comes to salt – more on that later! 

Electrolyte Balance: Salt plays a crucial role in maintaining electrolyte balance in the body. It helps regulate fluid balance, nerve function, and muscle contraction, which are essential for overall health. 

Hydration: Proper hydration is key to optimal health, and salt helps regulate water movement in and out of cells, ensuring they stay hydrated and function properly. You may have heard the term “salt follows water” or have wondered why health enthusiasts recommend a pinch of Himalayan sea salt in your water. It's because water intake and salt intake depend on each other for optimized function!

clouds over clear water, with sea salt deposits abundant under the surface
Salt and Water Intake Need Balance

Digestive Health: Salt stimulates saliva production, which contains enzymes necessary for breaking down food and initiating digestion. It also enhances gastric acid secretion, aiding in digestion and nutrient absorption.

Blood Pressure Regulation: While excessive salt intake can lead to high blood pressure, moderate consumption is necessary for maintaining normal blood pressure levels by influencing fluid balance in the body. This is where “not all salt is created equal” plays a bigger role. 

Nervous System Function: Salt is vital for transmitting nerve impulses, facilitating communication between cells, and coordinating various physiological processes.

Muscle Function: Salt regulates the movement of calcium ions in and out of muscle cells, essential for muscle contraction and relaxation. Have you ever had an electrolyte sports drink after a heavy workout? You need to replenish the salts that your body loses in sweat!

Nutrient Absorption: Salt plays a role in the absorption of nutrients like glucose and amino acids in the small intestine, ensuring optimal nutrient utilization by the body.

a small wooden bowl filled with salt on a wooden table top
Salt Assists With Many Functions

Best Salts to Consume

Sea Salt: Rich in trace minerals, sea salt offers a slightly lower sodium content compared to table salt.

Himalayan Salt: Mined from ancient sea deposits, Himalayan salt contains various trace minerals and is prized for its purity.

Celtic Salt: Harvested from tidal pools off the coast of France, Celtic salt retains its natural mineral content and offers a distinct flavor profile.

Kosher Salt: While not inherently healthier, kosher salt's larger crystals make it easier to control sodium levels during cooking.

My Recommendations

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Salts to Limit

Try to restrict table salt as much as possible, or nix it altogether. Not only is it highly processed and stripped of its natural minerals, but table salt may also contain additives like anti-caking agents and lacks the nutritional benefits of unrefined salts. This kind of salt is also highly present in fast foods and pre-packaged foods. 

white sodium chloride crystals on a shiny black surface
Limit Your Intake of Sodium Chloride

So, as you can see, salt is not a villain. When consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, it offers numerous health benefits, from maintaining electrolyte balance to supporting digestive health and muscle function. I love adding a pinch to my protein smoothie in the morning, or after a workout or physical activity. Check out some great healthy cooking options and generally great reads on a balanced diet.  

By consistently choosing unrefined salt options like sea salt, Himalayan, Celtic, or Kosher salt, you can reap the nutritional benefits while minimizing risks. But as always, moderation is key. 


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