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How (un) healthy is salt?

About 10,000 BC Traded as white gold, salt should literally not be missing in the soups of many kitchens today! Salt is vital for our body. However, what is probably the only raw material that is available to us in unlimited quantities is always the subject of discussion: What effects does salt have on our body? How much salt is safe for your health? Now there are answers!

Salt or no salt? That is the question here

The salt shaker should simply be banned, many doctors and nutritionists have been claiming for years. Consistently excessive salt consumption is said to increase blood pressure, increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and put a lot of strain on the kidneys. However, the harmfulness of salt has by no means been clearly proven. Recent research also shows that too little salt can endanger health and even increase mortality.

Table salt, sea salt, rock salt: what are the differences?

Who doesn’t know this feeling when every few months in the supermarket they can’t decide whether they should reach for the blue and white or yellow and green packaging? But salt is not just salt : Anyone who speaks colloquially of “salt” usually means the conventional, finely ground, refined salt from the pack.

The well-known table salt consists – as the chemical name “sodium chloride” suggests – almost exclusively of the two minerals chlorine and sodium. There are also often small amounts of other minerals contain: For example, these salts can also contain traces of calcium or magnesium.

Depending on the type of extraction, there is also sea salt and rock salt: Sea salt is obtained from the evaporation of sea water. Rock salt is, to put it simply, fossil sea salt, i.e. a rock that was formed from sea salt.

It might sound tempting to you to spend a lot of money in the supermarket on fancy table salts, but with all the differences, it is always sodium chloride that you use to season your food. Whether fleur de sel, sea salt, Himalayan salt or rock salt – all the experts agree on one thing: the amount makes the poison.

It is similar with sugar, by the way. Read here how not to fall into the sugar trap.

Why salt is vital

Sodium chloride is first and foremost an important mineral for our body. Salt regulates the water balance, the tissue tension and is the basis for the excitability of nerves and muscles. As a mineral, salt also plays an important role in building bones and in digestion. In short: salt is fundamentally important for our body. Since we cannot make it ourselves, we have to take it in with our food.

The research results of Dr. med. Christiane Northrup, an expert in gynecology, says too little salt leads to insulin resistance and an increased risk of heart failure. In addition, low-salt diets have been linked to increased cholesterol and low blood pressure.

The right amount of salt in your food helps to maintain a constant supply of fluids and helps your muscles to regenerate faster, for example after a strenuous exercise.

In addition, a sufficient amount of salt supports your nervous system and ensures that you can sleep better and your metabolism is stimulated – positive effects that also benefit you in your usual sports routine!

Do athletes need an extra portion of salt?

If you sweat, you not only lose water, but also numerous minerals – including sodium chloride, i.e. salt. It is not uncommon for endurance athletes in particular to consume salt in addition to their normal diet. But how useful is the calculation?

“Hobby athletes generally do not have to worry too much, as the training unit usually does not sweat so much salt that compensation is necessary,” explains Prof. Dr. Ingo Froböse from the German Sport University in Cologne. Only after two hours of exposure in extreme heat, such as a triathlon, should the budget be balanced so that there is no drop in performance or cramps.

How much salt is healthy?

The German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends that adults eat a maximum of 6 grams of table salt per day, while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends only 5 grams. A gram or not: the amount is roughly equivalent to a small teaspoon full of salt. That sounds like a pretty large amount at first. However, the maximum recommended amount also includes all salts that are already contained in our daily foods. And then it gets more difficult.

Often we don’t even notice that we are eating something salty. Around 85% of salt consumption occurs in this unconscious way. Larger amounts of salt are contained in sausage and meat, for example, but also in certain types of cheese, as well as in bread and other baked goods as well as in dairy products and also in finished products, especially in canned foods.

On the other hand, adding salt at the table is usually of little consequence. But did you know that a ready-made pizza often contains less salt per 100 grams than cornflakes ?! Next time you go shopping, take a look at the nutrition tables – you’ll be surprised!

How much is too much?

When it comes to your health, determining how much salt you are consuming is a matter of common sense. For people with diabetes, weak hearts, or high cholesterol, a low-salt diet is a must in the long run.

In a healthy and active life with sufficient exercise, a pinch of salt for seasoning does not matter. So that you don’t lose sight of your salt consumption, you should cook fresh if possible and not use ready-made products, but rather use potatoes, pasta, rice, oat flakes, fruit, fresh or frozen vegetables, low-fat quark and yoghurt more often.

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