I cannot even tell you how many times I have had people tell me that salt is horrible for you, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Well I am here to tell you that it is not. Salt is an absolutely imperative part of a healthy lifestyle.
If you are trying to get fit one of the fist things that people will tell you is to increase your intake of water, and to start exercising, particularly cardio. Your body works at an equilibrium which includes salt content. When you increase your water intake the salt content in your body is diluted (i.e. a greater proportion of water to salt). Additionally when you do cardio, you sweat; sweat is a combination of salt (and other electrolytes) plus water, but typically we don’t drink water and salt to rehydrate, we just drink water and therefore further dilute our body’s salt content. So there is the science aspect of it, which I will get back to in a bit.
The biggest thing I hear about salt is that the Canada health guide or the doctor or whatever professional health resource advises limiting salt intake. There are reasons for limiting salt intake that are extremely important.
- If you have high blood pressure salt can exacerbate this problem because as I explain above your body works at equilibrium. The more salt you ingest the more water you will retain in order to keep your body at a good salt:water ratio. If you are retaining more water you will have more fluid in your blood stream in the same amount of space and this will exacerbate the high blood pressure problem.
- If you regularly eat out, eat prepackaged foods or use a lot of cooking sauces and/or condiments, you probably already have way too much salt in your diet and diluting this or decreasing this will probably improve your body’s well being.
- If you want to look just that much better for an event, cutting your salt intake will reduce water retention, temporarily decreasing your weight, reducing bloating and making you appear smaller and less puffy.
A regular person drinking approx. 2 litres of water per day and moderately active should consume between 500 – 2300 mg of sodium per day. Most people are over that and a lot of people have cardiovascular problems, which has led to the mass marketing campaign against salt. However, if you are active and drink a boat load of water you need more salt than that and this is determined through trial and error. Having too little sodium in your system can have some really awful effects:
– Cramps (particularly calf and foot cramps that cause embarrassing falls mid run on a treadmill)
– Muscle spasms (these are visible and look like an area of your muscle is jumping)
– General unexplained fatigue or feeling that your limbs are heavy
– Confusion/hallucination (this is only if the deficiency is severe)
The most common one experienced by people living a healthy lifestyle is cramps and muscle spasms which are rather unpleasant. The problem is that if you are trying to eat healthy then you probably aren’t eating prepared foods or take out, and then you are probably limiting your use of the salt shaker, no sauces or condiments for you… so where are you getting your sodium from? You aren’t!
The problem is that mass marketing efforts don’t explain this, so people that are already getting minimal amounts of sodium avoid it like the plague and wind up hurting themselves. I’m not recommending dumping a tbsp of salt on every meal, but just don’t be so afraid of it. Salt is a necessary part of our biological make up and it makes things taste better. On that note one of my favourite things to add salt to is hot cocoa… I know right?! Sounds gross… but try it! Here is my recipe below:
Super Skinny Hot Cocoa
2 tbsp. dutch process cocoa
4 packets of splenda or other non-nutrient sweetener (if you are opposed to these, use natural sweeteners instead and adjust for the nutritional content – maple syrup would give this a bit of a different taste that would probably rock)
1/8 tsp. of salt (I use plain table salt because it is iodized – but that’s for another post)
Instructions: In a small sauce pan, scald the milk (don’t boil it because you will get a gross skin on the milk – look for when the milk starts to steam but not bubble), turn the heat down low and add the dry ingredients, mix well with a whisk and serve.
Nutritional Info: Makes 2 servings
Cal – 100
Fat – 1.5g
Protein – 9 g
Carbs – 15 g
Sodium – 270 mg