There are a range of benefits and pitfalls regarding the inclusion of salt in our diets.
Looking at the factors associated with its consumption, it can be recognized that, while salt is an essential element in maintaining good nutrition, it can cause major health troubles when intake is excessive.
In today’s society, salt is an exceedingly common ingredient in food commodities such as potato chips, bread, fast food meals and other goods, such as pet foods.
How Salt Benefits Our Body
Salt is made up of two natural elements – sodium and chlorine – which combine to form the compound sodium chloride.
Obtained from the mineral kingdom, it benefits the body in the way it works in tune with potassium. The elements of sodium and chlorine are responsible for balancing the electrolytes present in fluids and cells, and ensuring blood pH levels are always kept in check.
Other beneficial qualities it has includes the ability to hold minerals, such as calcium, in suspension and help with the transmitting of nerve impulses in the body.
In good health, salt is constantly exchanged between blood and the fluids in the tissues, enabling new salt to enter the body’s system. Linked with digestion, this process of exchange is a valued biological action relevant to keeping nutrition in balance.
Salt also functions as an appetite stimulant and helps to accentuate different food tastes. It is a seasoning that is best taken in very small quantities of five grams a day.
Keep in Balance
Like any substance, too much or too little can affect health in a number of ways, and this is the same with salt.
When too little or no salt is eaten, deficiency symptoms can soon result, including:
• feelings of apathy
• reduced appetite, and
• impaired thinking.
When added to meals in excess, symptoms can lead to an irritation of the nervous system in the body, retention of fluids and increased cravings.
Salt is not a new additive to the food we eat. In some parts of the world, salt usage is well above the ideal daily intake, with at least 20 grams (and higher) being consumed every day.
Meals are often seasoned by ‘table salt’ – a commercially refined product void of all trace elements naturally found in unprocessed sea salt and rock salt.
This itself presents a pitfall when consuming salt in any quantity as ‘table salt’ also contains a selection of chemicals, eg anti-caking agents and potassium iodine, that are unnatural and unbalanced, and only serve to worsen sodium cravings.
It is apparent that using salt in the diet has good and bad sides to it. With the right understanding however, its beneficial qualities can certainly help our diets a great deal and make for some tastier meals – as long as moderation is applied.