Is eating without salt good or bad for your health? And what is the right amount of salt for cooking and in foods?
We use it in the kitchen and at the table every day. It gives a boost to even the most tasteless of foods. Yet there is still a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding salt. Long demonized — see the proliferation of salt-free foods — this essential condiment is now instead celebrated as a true superfood: entire shelves of gourmet stores are crammed with infinite varieties of salt, and there are even “salt sommeliers” like the one in the restaurant Samak at Desert Island Resort by Anantara in Abu Dhabi. In short, there are those who venerate it and are willing to shell out huge sums for the most delicious (the most expensive salt in the world, Korean Bamboo Salt costs $200 for half a kilo) and those who avoid it at all costs.
The crucial question, however, remains: is salt good or bad? How much salt is too much salt? And are all types of salt the same? We asked an expert: Rose Ferguson , nutritionist, integrative medicine doctor with her own clinic in Harley Street in London, but not only that. Already a successful model of the 90s, she was defined by British Vogue as “the original Miu Miu girl” and precisely because of her, Miu Miu exceptionally returned to the catwalks during the most recent Milan Fashion Week.
What is table salt?
Used throughout the world as a condiment and flavor enhancer, as well as to preserve foods, edible salt is composed of sodium chloride with its chemical formula NaCl – sodium (Na) and Chlorine (Cl) -. The most common types of table salt are:
- Sea salt (which can be iodized), produced in salt shakers by evaporating sea water
- Rock salt or rock salt, such as pink Himalayan salt , extracted from the sodium chloride deposits of salt mines, a legacy of ancient seas
The difference between the two? Rock salt is pure, does not need to be refined, and naturally contains iodine, which is essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid. Sea salt, on the other hand, loses much of its iodine in the process of refining it from impurities. Iodized salt is sea salt to which iodine has been added.
What are the benefits of salt for the functioning of our body?
“Salt is not just a cooking food, but a biological necessity,” Rose Ferguson tells us. Salt, or sodium chloride, plays a vital role and orchestrates a delicate balance in our body. It is essential for maintaining fluid balance, ensuring that our cells are neither too swollen nor too dehydrated. It also facilitates nerve impulses and muscle contractions, making it possible from the heartbeat to the blinking of the eyelashes. Salt even helps the absorption of nutrients, demonstrating that its role in our body is as broad as it is vital.”
What type of salt should you use for a healthy diet?
“Choosing the right salt is a question of purity and minerals”, says the nutritionist. “Although salt is present on all tables, not all salts are the same. Common table salt, often heavily processed, is very different from sea salt and Himalayan pink salt, famous for their natural extraction and mineral richness. These unrefined salts bring trace elements like magnesium and potassium to the table, and contain no added chemicals. The choice, therefore, must be oriented towards the varieties of salt processed to a minimum, where all the abundance provided by nature is preserved.”
How much salt should we consume per day?
“Navigating the world of salt consumption can be complicated,” says Rose Ferguson. “The guideline, for a healthy adult, is no more than 6 grams per day. This indication is like a lighthouse that can help us orient ourselves in this complicated panorama. This amount of salt includes all sources, from the pinch of salt we add to pasta, to the salt crystals hidden in industrialized and processed foods. Achieving this balance is not only a culinary challenge but also an imperative for health.”
What happens if we eat too much salt?
“Excessive salt intake has its impact on health,” says the nutritionist. “It is a central element in the development of hypertension, which in turn creates the conditions for cardiac and circulatory disorders. Excess salt can also strain the kidneys, and cause calcium loss in the bones. In everyday life, excess salt can manifest itself as water retention, swelling and malaise, which are small signs of a broader dietary imbalance.”
The health damage of eating without salt
“Dropping below the level of salt needed by our body is not a very common situation, yet its implications are significant,” concludes Rose Ferguson. “Hyponatremia, a condition in which sodium levels plummet, can manifest with symptoms ranging from headaches to severe neurological damage. While our modern diet often overcompensates for a lack of salt, awareness of this condition highlights the low end of the salt spectrum.”
Originally published in Vogue.it