Salt continues to remain one of the top debated health and nutrition topics to date. Without surprise, we continue to see health professionals who believe sodium/salt is the cause of current health problems and other professionals who believe sodium/salt is vital for optimal health. Major government agencies and institutions advocate a low sodium/salt diet. Whether you are against sodium/salt intake or an advocate of for it, everyone can agree that like anything else, sodium/salt should not be consumed in excess. As consumers, we need to recognize the fact that anything in excess can have negative impacts on our health and, at the same time, understand the vital functions sodium plays in our bodies.
Sodium chloride (salt) is important to our diet. Experts agree on the fact that humans rely on sodium as a macro mineral to carry on many vital functions, including maintaining fluid balance, carrying nutrients into and out of cells, nerve impulses by signal transduction, brain communication with your muscles through sodium-potassium ion exchange and a major component of blood plasma, lymphatic fluid and extracellular fluid.
Our bodies work hard to maintain neutral levels of sodium. However, if your sodium levels drop too low or becomes too high, you can increase your risk of mild to severe health problems.
Now, before we move forward on this topic, I want to explain the difference between salt and sodium. Salt is sodium chloride (NaCl) and Sodium (Na) is simply a soft metal. When we look at sodium in nature, we are actually looking at naturally occurring salt, which consists of sodium chloride, major minerals and a large number of essential trace minerals. In addition, we can receive naturally occurring sources of sodium from foods, such as milk, meat, eggs, fish and most vegetables. Salt is an amazing natural resource, but in our modern world, we have seen a huge decrease in quality and a huge increase in quantity. This trend not only relates to our salt consumption but also to our nonstop consumption of highly refined and processed foods. Together, both of these problems continue to fuel the fire and lead us down a path toward illness and disease.
When it comes to salt, we are faced with two options: unrefined and refined. Unrefined salt either comes from the sea or mined from ancient sea beds. Refined salt is a highly processed form of sea salt or mined salt that removes all the trace minerals and adds anti-caking chemicals and iodine. Refined salt makes sense from an economic standpoint but not from a health standpoint. Refined salt looks clean and bright white. Refined salt does not clump, which increases its shelf life and retail value. Refined salt is processed at high temperatures, removing the important trace minerals and altering the molecular structure. Due to these reasons, refined salt currently dominates the market. Unrefined sea salt supplies so much more than sodium chloride. The vital trace minerals found in natural salt help your body function at optimal levels.
The great salt debate should focus on what type of salt we consume, and leaders in the industry should promote real unrefined salt and explain the importance of reducing consumption of refined salt. If you are looking to keep healthy sodium levels in your body, I recommend using unrefined sea salt in moderation instead of cheap over-consumed refined table salt.
Choose low-sodium products if possible and cut back or eliminate sodium in processed foods all together. Cut back or eliminate sodium in fast food. Use herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of food and always make sure to stay properly hydrated. Remember, you are in charge of your own health. With all the different information coming your way, seek to find answers from sources you trust and don’t get caught up in all the fads and trends that overwhelm the many media outlets.
Joey Bratton is owner of Fit Culture Studio, inspiring wellness. He is a certified personal trainer and has a bachelor’s of science in applied Nutrition. Contact him at (530) 265-5342 or visit www.fitculturestudio.com, or his blog at www.naturalfitnessandnutrition.com.