In today’s Western diet of Big Macs and French Fries, we often hear about the dangers of too much salt in the diet. Diets are full of sodium due to fast food and processed foods. All this salt increases water retention, which elevates blood pressure. High blood pressure leads to serious conditions like heart attacks, kidney disease and stroke, even death.
In the fitness industry, it’s easy to get caught up in the “salt is bad” phenomenon and while it is recommended to watch salt intake, too little salt can be just as problematic.
Why We Need Salt
The body needs salt. However, it is important to differentiate the terms, “salt” and “sodium”. These two are often used interchangeably and they are not the same. Sodium is a mineral found in salt. Natural salt is a compound comprised of sodium and chloride. What the FDA often warns against by setting daily upper limits is table salt which is taking natural salt through a refining process and destroying many of its beneficial properties. Unlike table salt natural salt is rich in naturally occurring minerals (2).
Salt (we will continue to refer to salt here as natural salt) is crucial for maintaining body water and balancing electrolytes. It helps maintain fluid balance in and around cells. Too little salt can result in hyponatremia (low blood pressure). In addition, chloride is pivotal in creating digestive stomach acid (HCL).
Symptoms Of Salt Deficiency
Some symptoms of sodium deficiency include dehydration, dizziness, weakness, muscle cramps, headaches, and impaired cognitive function (aka) brain fog. When we purposely restrict our salt intake, our bodies start to produce more insulin to get our kidneys to retain more sodium. Prolonged restriction therefore can lead to high insulin levels, insulin resistance, weight gain and diabetes.
How Much Salt Do We Need?
The FDA recommends no more than 2300mg of salt per day (1). Many Americans consume an average of 3400 mg of table salt per day! However, replacing refined table salt with natural salt in the cooking of wholesome, fiber rich foods can have a profound effect on health and weight loss efforts.
Athletes will need to replenish with salts as the body excretes salt through sweat. In addition, consuming foods rich in potassium like bananas, melon, oranges, coconut water and potatoes can help to restore electrolyte balance and prevent dehydration and low blood pressure!
This was the basis for developing a healthy and delicious replenishment drink at Protea Nutrition. Vegan Aminos contains electrolytes, magnesium, sodium, and potassium that all work to balance fluid needed for muscle recovery. Included is 220mg of naturally occurring sodium chloride to replenish and balance fluid levels in the body.
Bottom line, while it is advised to limit overconsumption of refined salts, the body requires natural salt to maintain fluid balance and prevent symptoms of dehydration and hyponatremia. Don’t fear salt! Rather, be mindful of where and how your body is consuming salts.