Salt has been a topic of discussion in regards to its effects on the body. Many may believe that salt is a substance that must be avoided or consumed in as little quantities as possible. However, low salt consuming societies do not suggest shorter life expectancies nor higher mortality rates, suggesting that low salt intake is not important. It is important to understand that salt is needed in the human body due to its properties and not consuming any salt can lead to dangerous effects, but also recognize the problems that arise from the consumption of excessive amounts of salt.
Salt is derived from the white crystals in seawater. It is made up of sodium chloride, which the human body needs for survival. Sodium is necessary in the human body as it transmits nerve impulses, contracts and relaxes muscle fibers, and maintains a proper fluid balance. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommends that healthy adults consume 3.8 grams of salt daily. And when there is a sodium deficiency, humans experience symptoms of hyponatremia such as brain swelling, coma, congestive heart failure, cardiovascular collapse, and impaired sympathetic cardiovascular adjustments to stress.
While salt is important for survival and to avoid dangerous effects, consuming an excessive quantity of salt may also lead to problems in one's health. For instance, the consumption of a large quantity of salt can lead to high blood pressure. It can also lead to heart diseases, strokes, and calcium losses pulled mainly from the bone. These problems arise when the excessive amounts of sodium cause problems in the kidneys, as the sodium leads to more water to dilute it which in turn increases the blood volume in the bloodstream stream. Increased blood volume pushes the heart to work harder as well as exerts more pressure on blood vessels.
These two contrasting sides of the consumption of salt debate demonstrates the difficult answer to the question whether one should avoid salt or not. Like most foods and substances, salt should be consumed in moderation in order to prevent problems that arise from an intake of too much salt or too little salt. However, between those two ranges, salt can mostly be consumed freely without consequences, assuming that one does not deal with low or high blood pressure. Salt intake should be regulated mainly by one’s doctor’s opinions, but most people should not fear salt in their food.
Harvard. 2006 November 1. Take it with a grain of salt. Harvard Medical School.
Harvard. Salt and Sodium. The Nutrition Source.
Kresser, C. 2019 February 22. Shaking up the Salt Myth: The Human Need for Salt.