Is Sodium Bad for You?
You’ve heard the message before, shun salt. We’ve all been told to look for low sodium option foods and never add extra salt to anything.
The idea is that the best way to prevent heart disease and stroke is to limit our sodium intake. But actually, not all experts agree that going low on salt is healthy, especially if you’re active.
With new research constantly coming out, trying to figure out what is actually healthy for you or not can be a little overwhelming, so let’s breakdown what sodium actually does for your body.
Sodium is crucial for your body’s function. It's responsible for helping send neural signals to and from your brain and also helps control your heart rate.
For active individuals, it helps prevent muscle cramps and helps you retain water, so you don’t become dehydrated. This explains why sports drinks like Gatorade, have high amounts of sodium (But also a TON of sugar so try to find other electrolyte alternatives like coconut water or Liquid IV).
When you exercise you lose sodium, potassium, and other fluids, therefore it’s crucial that you replenish these minerals.
So, if sodium is so important for your body, why does it have such a bad rep? Salt consumption causes you to retain more water which increases your blood volume. Increased blood volume then puts more pressure on blood vessels, causing your heart to work harder.
If this continues over time it can lead to hypertension or high blood pressure. High blood pressure affects every 1 in 3 Americans and can lead to many chronic diseases and other health issues.
Since salt consumption can lead to hypertension, beginning in the 1970s experts started advising cutting back on salt. This led to a salt restriction craze that spread across the country. However, various research reports have come out with evidence that there is no proof that consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day resulted in fewer deaths from heart disease and stroke.
Numerous experts, like from the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, explain that the recommendation of consuming less salt the better is unjustified. In fact, consuming too little sodium can cause adverse effects like increased cholesterol and insulin resistance.
A 2014 Denmark study even found that consuming too little sodium is linked to a greater risk of death and that the safest range of sodium consumption is between 2,645-4,945 milligrams, a number most Americans are already meeting!
When it comes to your diet, don’t be afraid to add salt to your fresh veggies and proteins, it tastes good and its good for you!
What is concerning is that most individuals get their sodium consumption from packaged or processed foods, which are also high calorie, high sugar, and even have trans fats.
The bottom line is that if you’re eating a whole food/nutrient-rich diet and you’re active don’t stress about sodium!