By: Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Do you remember learning about the periodic table of elements back in the day when you were in school? If I were to ask you what element has the atomic number 11 and is an alkali metal, would you be able to answer? Honestly, I couldn't remember either if you have no clue. But the answer would be sodium. Salt is something we all need in our diets, yet people seem to be fear-mongering over it — complaining that it's the devil that hides in our meals. But is it really?
Salt, a seemingly simple ingredient, has found itself in the crosshairs of health-conscious individuals and even more so in the mainstream media. Your first problem is listening to anything the mainstream media tells you. It's typically incredibly biased. The prevailing narrative from the media paints salt as a dietary villain, responsible for many health issues.
That being said, it's time to challenge this one-dimensional portrayal and dive a little deeper into the nuanced relationship between salt and our health.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before making any changes to your current nutrition regimen.
Why Does Salt Get Such a Bad Rap?
Aside from the media touting salt as the reason you may find yourself in an early grave, there are some issues we should discuss to understand why salt and sodium seem to freak people out.
1. The Sodium Dilemma
One primary reason salt has such a negative reputation is its strictly due to the overall sodium content. Excessive sodium intake has been linked to hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, leading health experts to caution against overconsumption.
2. Processed Foods and Hidden Sodium
The modern American diet is known to include insane amounts of processed and pre-packaged foods, which can contribute significantly to elevated sodium levels. These foods, engineered for taste and shelf life, tend to hide high amounts of sodium, further skewing the perception of salt as a dietary demon.
3. Misinformation and Fear-Mongering
The mainstream media often oversimplifies health information, and in doing so, they tend to cherry-pick data to fit a certain narrative (shocking, I know). Unfortunately, no one takes a deep dive into the subject of health and salt, ultimately believing everything the media says as gospel. This oversimplification fosters fear, leading people to adopt overly restrictive diets without understanding the broader context of salt's role in the body.
If you really want to get down into the weeds and understand why so many people are having health issues these days, look no further than the amount of sugar in the American diet, along with all the GMOs that are being consumed that can be the leading cause of increased cardiovascular issues and high blood pressure. But everyone wants to point the finger at salt. Why? Because it's an easy target.
Still not tracking? Go up and down the aisles of your grocery store — it's full of boxes and packaging loaded with sugars and GMOs. It almost makes you wonder if "the powers that be" want you sick. But that's a different rabbit hole that we can go down another time.
It's a matter of them having you pay attention to what's going on in this hand, meanwhile, the other hand is doing some shady business. But while I'm on my soapbox, have you ever seen a Prop 65 label on your supplements and wondered what it was all about? Check out our article to understand why it's on there and why you shouldn't be worried when you find it on your favorite products (even ones that are not supplement-related).
Salt is NOT the Enemy
When it comes down to it, salt is NOT the enemy you're led to believe. In fact, salt has many benefits when it comes to overall health and performance. So much so, that if you exercise regularly or are active, not focusing on your salt intake could lead you down the path of dehydration, muscle cramping, and many other health issues.
Let's take a closer look at some factors to consider before we write off salt as being "bad" for you.
Sodium, a key component of salt, is an essential electrolyte that plays a vital role in maintaining fluid balance in the body. It helps regulate blood pressure, support nerve function, and facilitate muscle contractions. All of these things you would deem important, right? Eliminating salt entirely from your diet can disrupt these crucial functions, causing your workouts and recovery to suffer.
2. Individual Variability
No two people are identical, and everyone reacts differently to various things. You need to look at and consider salt and sodium the same way. While excessive sodium intake can be harmful for some individuals, others may tolerate higher levels without adverse effects (which circles back to why you should speak to your doctor regarding your sodium intake). Recognizing the variability in individual responses is crucial to understanding that salt is not universally detrimental to everyone's health.
3. Whole Foods Perspective
The demonization of salt often stems from an overemphasis on processed foods. When consumed as part of a balanced diet, particularly with whole and minimally processed foods, salt can be part of a healthy nutritional profile and support not only your health but also your performance in and out of the gym.
The Benefits of Salt in Your Diet
Now, for the part that debunks the mainstream media nonsense — the benefits of salt.
Below are some of the key benefits you should be aware of and reasons why you need to ensure you are consuming salt throughout the day (especially if you plan on crushing brutal workouts or are an athlete who pushes their body to compete at the highest level).
1. Electrolyte Balance
Salt helps maintain the delicate balance of electrolytes in our body, ensuring proper cellular function, muscle contractions, and nerve transmission. Restricting salt intake excessively can disrupt this balance, leading to adverse health effects. After training sessions, athletic competition, or any activity that causes you to sweat profusely, you need to replenish lost electrolytes to maintain balance.
2. Hydration Support
Hydration is often (as mentioned earlier) oversimplified. Too many people think it's just a matter of drinking more water. But they forget about salt when it comes to hydration. Salt plays a crucial role in regulating water balance within your cells. Adequate salt intake helps prevent dehydration and supports overall hydration, which is particularly important to you, someone who engages in regular physical activity and workouts.
3. Digestive Health
Not many people think about the importance of salt when talking about digestive health. Salt aids in the production of stomach acid, which is essential for proper digestion. An insufficient salt intake can compromise your digestive processes, potentially leading to issues such as indigestion and nutrient malabsorption.
4. Trace Minerals
Natural, unprocessed salts contain trace minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Do those sound familiar? They should — electrolytes. These minerals are essential for various bodily functions, including fluid balance, bone health, nerve function, energy production, and much more.
Don't Be So Salty! Leverage the Power of Salt
Rather than running away from salt, it's time to shift your perspective toward this key ingredient. You should stop viewing salt as an outright enemy, and we should all acknowledge its nuanced role in our health.
The key with anything lies in moderation, a concept often overlooked in the face of sensationalized health information and propaganda by the mainstream media. If you are able to embrace a balanced approach to salt intake and focus on whole, unprocessed foods, you can enjoy the culinary benefits of salt while supporting your overall health and well-being.
As with any aspect of nutrition, knowledge and mindfulness should guide your choices, ensuring a healthier and more informed relationship with the salt on your plate and in your meals.
To take things one step further, hydration is a crucial aspect that can't be neglected when it comes to your training and recovery. It's for that reason we created a product that creates an explosion of flavor in your mouth — MuscleSport Creatine + Hydration.
Not only do you get the hydration aspects due to our ElectroREVô Hydration Matrix, but you also get organic coconut water powder, Himalayan pink salt, and patented Astragin® to help with absorption. To top things off, you get a full 5g serving of HPLC-tested creatine monohydrate to help maximize your recovery and muscle growth potential. Try it today in one of our refreshing flavors!