Salt for Health

Importance of Salt in our day to day life

When it comes to salt and its importance in our diet many people label it as the villain responsible for  serious health conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), increase in weight and many other heart diseases. However, once should also know that there are several health benefits of adding salt and consuming it in moderation is very important in our diet and over-all well being. .  On the contrary to popular belief, a 2011 study in the Journal of American Medical Association demonstrated that a low sodium excretion from our body due to low consumption shows positive correlation to heart diseases and coronary heart failure (1).

A 2011 study in the Journal of American Medical Association demonstrated that low dietary consumption of salt leads to low sodium removal from our body which may worsen the condition of our heart resulting into life threatening heart diseases.

Salt is an essential element of life which our body can’t produce. Hence it has to be provided, within the recommended amount, through our diet.  It plays many important functions within our body as listed below:

  1. Salt helps our body retain water and helps keep our blood pressure normal in case of hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels). When sodium levels in the blood decrease it signals a cascade of enzyme which further signals the kidney to retain sodium and water hence bringing the blood pressure to normal levels When sodium levels in the blood decrease, it sends a signal to our brain which further signals our kidney to retain sodium and water. This helps increase our blood sodium levels further normalizing our blood pressure (4).
  2.  Salt also plays as an important nerve stimulant for proper functioning of our muscles. Sodium acts as a messenger between your brain and muscles. Sodium from our body acts on the nerve cells which triggers a signal. When your muscles sense this signal, they begin to contract. Contraction or movement of different muscles not only provide you support and allow for movement but also maintain your heart beat. Low levels of sodium in our body disrupt this nerve to muscle signal leading to muscle weakness as well as spasms and cramps and increase in heart beat. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems such as unconsciousness, convulsions or even coma.
  3.  Salt contains many important nutrients which activate several salivary and digestive enzymes that aid in proper digestion and absorption of food in our stomach (1, 3, 6 ). For e.g. Salt helps activate salivary enzyme which helps our taste bud recognize food and also get a head start on break down of food. It also creates hydrochloric acid, which is a digestive secretion from within the stomach, which aids in digestion and absorption of food. Hence, one of the reasons for indigestion of food could be lack of salt in our diet. 

In summary, people who have been otherwise advised by a medical professional to restrict or monitor salt intake, following low salt diet can prove detrimental to our health in the long run.  Salt is required by our body to maintain a proper and good nutritional status. On an average, a healthy adult is advised to have 1.5g of sodium or 3.8g of salt to replace the amount lost daily (1). It’s important to realize that one should reduce consumption of highly processed food, outside food and consume more natural and whole foods to stay within the recommended limit and prevent the occurrence of life threatening diseases. This allows you to follow your own natural taste for salt while adding to food preparation and not deprive yourself of it (2).

References:

  1. www.nationalacademics.org
  2. www.cdc.gov
  3. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/legcrampsunknowncause/Pages/Causes.aspx
  4. Mahan, Kathleen.L (2012) Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process, St. Louis, Missouri: El Sevier
  5. http://www.saltinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Second-QTR-copy-of-digest-absorption.pdf
  6. http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/sodium-muscles-20359.html

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