Salt or sodium chloride is considered a destructive or harmful product for health. However, consuming a moderate amount per day could be healthy behavior.
An excess in the amount is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and brain diseases. (1,2)
But if consumed in a controlled amount, salt can be an essential supply of sodium and iodine for the body.
This article analyzes the composition of salt, the types that are there, and what is the recommended amount per day.
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What is salt?
Salt is a crystalline mineral composed of sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl).
Sodium and chlorine are essential for the body as they help your brain and nerves send electrical impulses and maintain cellular water balance.
Most of the world’s salt is obtained from salt mines or by evaporation of seawater.
Salt has several uses, the most common of which is to flavor food. Salt is also used as a food preservative, as bacteria have trouble growing in a salt-rich environment.
The reason that salt is often considered unhealthy is that in large amounts, it can raise blood pressure. If this is maintained over a long period, it can cause an increased risk of heart and brain disease.
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What is the recommended amount of salt per day?
The WHO establishes that for a person to stay healthy, they must consume less than 5 g per person per day.
According to this organization, an amount equivalent to less than 2 g of sodium per day helps prevent high blood pressure and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke (2).
This amount includes the total salt formed in all foods. (1)
To put it more simply, one teaspoon is enough per day for the average person.
On the other hand, salt consumption is associated with the amount of fluid lost. When doing intense physical activity, or cardio routines of more than 60 minutes, the recommended amount of salt can increase by 10-20%.
If you include foods such as bread, ham, and cheeses, you should be aware that these generally have an additional added salt in their composition. Even energy drinks like Gatorade and Powerade also add salt and electrolytes to their design.
Types of salt – which is better for health?
Today, various types of salt are offered on the market. The best known types of salt are:
- sea salt
- table salt
- Sal del Himalaya
- flavored salt
- black salt
- flavored salt
- low sodium salt
For example, with its characteristic pink color, Himalayan salt is one of the most popular in health food stores.
However, it is not entirely correct to say that this is healthier or more ecological.
Why are almost all types of salt similar in terms of health? The alternative to common table salt is touted as containing twice the amount of minerals as common salt.
However, if we go to the facts, the amounts are so low that double, or even triple, would not make a difference. For example, common salt provides 24 mg of calcium per 100 grams, Himalaya salt 45 mg – but the daily need for calcium is 1000 mg.
To cover the need for calcium with Himalaya salt, you should consume an approximate amount of 400 grams of salt, something that would be counterproductive for your health.
On the other hand, if indicated to lower blood pressure, common sodium salts replace sodium with other minerals, such as potassium. The body can tolerate a much higher amount of potassium without health consequences.
Why is an extra amount of iodine and fluoride added to the salt?
Iodine is added to salt because, in some regions of the world, the population does not reach the recommended amount per day with the diet. Most of the iodine is found in the oceans.
Adding iodine to salt is extremely important in populations far from the sea; since it is tough to include foods with iodine in the diet.
Iodine is essential for brain health, as well as for the proper functioning of the muscular system.
Lack of iodine is one of the most common globally, especially in low-income children and pregnant women.
A low iodine level throws the body’s hormonal system out of control. It causes all kinds of adverse changes in health.
The addition of a quantity of fluoride to the salt is justified to prevent tooth decay; It was a WHO recommendation from 2005.
Table salt is not a toxic product as long as it is used responsibly; the most important thing is not to exceed the amount. =
The Romans used it as a bargaining chip and compared it to gold. Currently, reducing salt intake is one of the main recommendations of nutritionists worldwide. How did it go from being so valued in ancient times to being condemned today?
What foods have the most added salt?
Most ultra-processed chips, cold cuts, and semi-prepared foods have excess salt added, as adherezos, soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce contain a significant amount of salt in their composition.
In fact, in some countries, the regulations on the packaging are being modified to make it easier to see.
Eating two pieces of pizza, a portion of chips, 200 grams of ham, ten crackers, and a can of tuna is the equivalent of the amount of salt a person needs per day. So an excess of these foods is counterproductive for heart health.
Additionally, these foods are often combined with monosodium glutamate or other flavor-enhancing additives, creating a synergy of compounds that leads a person to eat more.
Does salt make you fat?
Salt does not contain calories, so it cannot be said that it is a fattening product. However, consuming more than the recommended amount per day; gives a puffy appearance.
This is because when there is an excessive amount of salt in the body, it increases the amount of total water retained in the body.
This includes any excess salt, including sea salt and Himalayan salt.
Amount of salt in the ketogenic diet
The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb type of diet. Some people use it as a method to lose weight and regulate glucose levels in the body.
By lowering the number of carbohydrates consumed, the body begins to expel more water through the urine; this can cause pressure to drop, feeling dizzy, losing excess minerals, and dehydration.
The recommended amount of salt per day is 5g or less.
Consuming this amount of salt is associated with better heart health and a lower risk of stroke.
There are several types of salt. However, the only types that can be considered healthier are those low in sodium.
Sea salt and Himalayan salt have approximately the same sodium as common salt, and their extra supply of minerals does not make a difference.