Is Salt (Sodium) Really Bad for You? Find Out the Truth

Due to the rise in health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure, salt has faced some serious scrutiny, but is it really bad for you?

Just like most things in life, moderation is key. While you shouldn’t be emptying out your salt shaker for every meal, you also shouldn’t toss it away.

In this article, we’re going to shift gears and take a closer look at salt, how it impacts our body, and why it’s important on the ketogenic diet.

Salt and The Keto Diet

Salt is actually very important on the low-carb ketogenic diet. Since insulin levels are low from a low-carb lifestyle, the kidneys will excrete sodium at a much higher rate. This coupled with other aspects, such as increased water consumption and perhaps coffee intake (which is a natural diuretic) can lead to a case of hyponatremia, if you aren’t careful.

Hyponatremia simply means your body isn’t getting sufficient sodium in the blood stream, and it can cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, muscle weakness, and more uncomfortable symptoms. What happens next is your body will turn to its store of potassium to conserve the little bit of sodium that’s left.

The quickest remedy is to simply add more salt to your meals! If you start noticing any of these signs, then you need to increase your salt intake.

Start keeping a closer eye on how much salt you’re consuming daily, and try adding an extra 1-2 teaspoons of salt each day. About 3-5 grams of salt per daily is a good number to aim for, but this number can vary depending on how active you are.

If you sit in front of a computer all day, 5 grams might be too much, but if you’re sweating hard at the gym, 3 grams might be too low. Get it? Good!

Some excellent salty sources are:

  • Salted nuts and seeds
  • Bone broth (which has been shown to have plenty of its own health benefits, like helping fight infections, helping with muscle repair, and helping with leaky gut1.
  • Sea veggies like nori, kelp, and dulse
  • Salty vegetables like celery and cucumber

But What about the Bad Rap Salt Gets?

Sure, eating foods with too much salt, such as processed foods for example, can lead to nasty health issues, such as increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

No one is arguing against the negative effects of high salt consumption, but remember, too much of anything can be bad for you.

Eliminating salt altogether can also yield negative effects with hyponatremia, which we already discussed.

Choosing the Best Salt for More Health Benefits

Keep in mind, what kind of salt you opt for matters in your diet, and choosing the right ones can be even more beneficial to your diet.

Here are a few that keto dieters love:

Pink Himalayan Rock Salt

This naturally pink salt is mined near the Himalayas in Pakistan, hence its name. This hand-extracted salt is minimally processed and yields an unrefined product that’s totally free of any additives and is widely considered to be more natural than table salt.

Like table salt, pink Himalayan salt is primarily comprised of sodium chloride. The natural harvesting process, however, allows it to possess many other trace elements and minerals not found in your standard table salt, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

Sea Salt

Sea salt — which is simply evaporated sea water — is another great option. Like table salt, sea salt is also mostly just sodium chloride, however, depending on how it’s processed and where it’s harvested, it typically comes with some additional minerals like iron, zinc, boron, copper, sulfur, magnesium, and potassium2.

Sea salt is often less ground than refined salt, so if you’re sprinkling it on top of your food, it might have a different mouthfeel and give a more potent flavor burst than regular refined salt.

Lite Salt

Lite salt is typically targeted to those needing to watch their salt intake, but on the keto diet, it’s a great way to also get a much-needed dose of both sodium and potassium since lite salt is half sodium chloride and half potassium chloride. These are two important minerals needed when cutting carbs, so it’s a great salt option.

Just be sure to avoid some no-salt or salt-free substitutes, which often only contain potassium and no sodium.

Conclusion

Since low-carb diets like the keto diet can result in low blood sodium levels, it’s essential to keep salt on the table to avoid feeling fatigue or other unpleasant symptoms due to a high loss of sodium.

Start incorporating sea salt, lite salt, or pink Himalayan salt more into your dishes, or try incorporating more salty foods like bone broth or bullion into your diet.

Also, if you plan on going low-carb while also maintaining an active lifestyle, you need to be extra mindful about replacing lost sodium when you’re sweating it out at the gym.

Just remember that moderation is key. While it’s important to understand the health consequences of over consuming salt, it’s just as important to understand the importance of salt in your diet.

If you’re worried about getting too much or too little salt, start keeping track of how much salt your getting, begin looking at nutrition labels of products you buy and of ingredients you use in homemade dishes to ensure you’re getting what your body needs.

If you’re unsure about the salt intake of something, a quick Google search will usually do the trick and help you find the typical salt just about anything!

So next time you reach for the salt, worry not!

More Readings:

How to Avoid Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalances on Keto

5 Biggest Keto Diet Mistakes You’ll Want to Avoid

References:

[1] Rapin JR, Wiernsperger N (2010) Possible links between intestinal permeability and food processing: A potential therapeutic niche for glutamine. Clinics (Sao Paulo) 65: 635–643.

[2] Fantar, Suzanne. “List of Minerals in Sea Salt.” Healthy Eating | SF Gate, http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/list-minerals-sea-salt-8907.html. Accessed 24 May 2018.

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