Salt has gotten a really bad reputation.
It is blamed for high blood pressure and water retention and some recommend it should be avoided altogether. Not to be left behind by the cool kids, our beloved Mayor just forced all chain restaurants to label foods with a high sodium content.
So, does sodium kill? It does not.
A recent article by the NYT shows that undereating salt is actually much more dangerous than overeating it.
Moreover, the dangers of excess salt consumption haven’t really been proven. This only makes sense to me, otherwise fishermen and pearl divers would have died out centuries ago. Excess salt simply gets execrated via urine. There is hardly any substantial evidence of healthy people suffering from a sodium overdose, since our bodies are very good at regulating it.
What is salt and does it make you fat?
I touched upon this in my book 101 Fitness Myths, so here is the short version. Salt has been consumed by humans since the beginning of time. For 4,000 or more years, it has been widely used in conserving meats and other foods. Chemically, table salt consists of two electrolytes: sodium and chloride, both of which are critical for your health. This is also the reason why one of your four types of gustatory receptors (taste buds) is dedicated only for detecting salt. Sodium regulates blood pressure and volume; if you consume too little or too much, the body will react with changes in blood pressure.
Now, processed foods, which are loaded with salt, sugar, and fat because this is what we like… This leads to an over-consumption of sodium, as well as calories. People very often eat too much sodium, possibly prompting them to reach for sugary, calorie-rich drinks. Salty foods are also easy to overeat, so calories can pile up (Doritos with a soda, anyone?) The logical conclusion is that though not directly storing fat, salt can help you overeat, which in turn can cause obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The real problem with sodium
The dilemma, however, is not so much the amount of sodium consumed (assuming you are watching your
intake), but the potassium/sodium balance. At cellular level, potassium is the counterpart of sodium: potassium gets pumped into the cell, and sodium goes out. This cycle repeats endlessly. Without sodium you can not contract a muscle and you ll eventually die…sad.The potassium/sodium ratio should be around one-to-two, but in reality it is closer to one-to-five since most people under-consume vegetables (potassium source) and overeat processed foods (loaded with salt).So salt itself is not the enemy.
As with everything else, it needs to be consumed in moderation; 2,400 milligrams a day (half a tea spoon) would be a good average. To stay on the safe side, don’t eat processed foods and be careful with your saltshaker. Also make sure to consume potatoes, beans, fish, and spinach as potassium sources.
If you plan a heavy workout the next day, add a little more salt to your dinner. The extra water can help increase your strength during the workout. Sushi works wonders before squat day!
Till next time