The Pros & Cons Of Having Salt In Your Diet

The Pros & Cons Of Having Salt In Your Diet


Few things have the ability to alter the taste of bland food quite like salt, but health experts remain divided on the harmful effects it can have on your body. While excessive intake is never to be advised, a little in moderation may have more benefits than you think. Here, four different experts from the worlds of health and fitness debate the pros and cons.


Salt Can Help Balance Your Blood Sugars

“Several findings have reported that a low-salt diet may increase insulin resistance (1234),” says Mike Molloy, Founder of M2 Performance Nutrition. “Likewise, a single study found that in type 2 diabetics, consuming less salt was associated with an increased risk of death (5). As such, there is some reasonably strong correlative evidence to suggest consuming a moderately salted diet, if you’re trying to normalise blood glucose levels. When I say ‘moderately,’ it’s key to understand what this means. There appears to be a U-shaped health curve to what the correct intake is. While some people should absolutely limit their intake, it’s not nearly to the extreme certain health organisations would have you believe. Putting all the data together, a recommended dose is between 6 and 10 grams. This was in fact confirmed quite nicely by a 2014 review which declared a range of 6.6-12.4 grams of salt per day as ‘optimal’ based on health outcomes related to all-cause mortality (8).”

The Right Amount Is Essential For Healthy Muscles

“Salt contains sodium, which is a vital nutrient for maintaining healthy functioning cells,” explains Marilia Chamon, Nutritionist. “Put simply, this means boosting muscle health and keeping them working well, while also looking after the nerve signals in our bodies. On top of this, sodium controls the balance of water in our bodies, working together with potassium to carry nutrients and waste in and out of our cells. Our bodies spend about a third of their energy doing this job daily, working tirelessly to ensure the ratio of sodium and potassium is balanced to keep symptoms like high blood pressure at bay.” 

Which Type You Eat Matters

“Salt can be categorised into two segments: iodised table salt and naturally occurring salts such as Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt,” continues Mike. “Iodized salt was created years ago when iodine deficiency was a major, and more common, health concern. Himalayan salt is pink in colour and includes trace amounts of additional minerals and elements that aren’t found in the former salt.” Marilia adds: “Himalayan salts have been shown to contain higher amounts of trace minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron than refined table salt. The latter is poor in most minerals as its refining process tends to strip everything out.” 

It Can Help To Lower Inflammation, Too

“Salt is also made up of chloride, which is used by our bodies to make stomach acid and kill any pathogens (unwanted bacteria) in our food,” finishes James DiNicolantonio, Author of The Salt Fix. “With that in mind, a good daily dosage is key in keeping your body functioning at the correct pace, while aiding the digestive process, too. Our white blood cells benefit from chloride too – using it to form hypochlorous acid, which helps to kill off infections. This helps lower inflammation and also boost our immune systems for overall health, while keeping out nasty, unwanted germs.” 

The tricky situation with salt is less is often more, but everyone has varying needs, so it’s important to asses this.
- James DiNicolantonio


Too Much Can Increase Disease

“Unfortunately, the Brits love for salty flavours has soared,” explains Helen Bond, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. “According to the latest stats by Public Health England, we’re currently consuming a third more than the recommend allowance per day. As a result, this is causing our bodies to retain more fluid, in turn increasing our blood pressure. What’s more, the Department of Health & Social Care estimates that if we could lower our intake, 8,000 premature deaths from strokes and heart disease could be prevented yearly. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence also estimate that this reduction in salt intake could save £3 billion a year in healthcare costs.” 

Everybody Has Varying Needs

“The tricky situation with salt is less is often more, but everyone has varying needs, so it’s important to asses this,” says James. “For example, the average person will lose around a half a tsp of salt per hour of exercise through sweat. The same amount is also lost when you consume four cups of coffee, so this can become complex. With this in mind, it’s important to know yourself what is needed for your individual diet and not overdo, or equally, underdo it. It’s a delicate balance and it’s worth taking note of it daily.” Marilia agrees: “Individuals that have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension are advised to eliminate or lower their salt intake entirely. However, addressing overall diet and inflammation will probably yield better health results as a whole.” 

Getting The Balance Right Is Key

“We discussed the ‘danger zone’ for excess salt intake above, but there are a few easy ways to know if you’re eating too much,” continues Mike. “Some signs are feeling puffy or more bloated than usual. This happens because the body needs to retain more water as a result of too much salt. If you’re finding this is the case, you’re likely to see an elevated blood pressure reading, as well as an intense thirst, too. You want to avoid this altogether as excess fluid can put an extra strain on your body, including your heart. When you exceed the amount stated above, you’re mostly increasing your risk for stroke and cardiovascular disease, so it’s important to always have this in the back of your mind.” 

So, What’s The Bottom Line?

While there’s no doubt a small amount of salt can yield benefits, little and often remains the motto. It’s essential – especially if you’re consuming a large amount – to reduce your salt intake by eating less processed foods and also using herbs, spices or even pepper at the table and in your cooking. 

Real, whole food sources of salt are far better than packaged ones that contain refined carbs and sugars on top. In fact, studies by The World Cancer Research Fund reports that 75% of the average person’s salt intake comes from processed foods – think ready meals, soups, crisps, breakfast cereals, pizza, cheeses and pastries. Experts agree that if you can reduce your intake in this area, you’re far more likely to have balanced levels of sodium that can benefit instead of hinder you. 

Focus on eating plenty of fresh whole foods – vegetables, fruits, unprocessed whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, all of which are naturally low in salt. 

It also goes without saying that if you feel you need to cut back or up the ante on an essential mineral like salt, you should always take direction from your GP. Too much or too little can have adverse effects as mentioned above, so your sodium levels should be monitored, especially if you have an underlying condition or suffer from any deficiencies. 


The Salt Fix is available here

*Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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