Salt is essential for good health!

No person can survive without salt. Combined with water, it forms the basis for numerous metabolic processes. By regulating our electrolyte and fluid balance, it allows essential nutrients to be dissolved in the body and consumed substances to be eliminated. Salt also plays a key role in controlling nerves and muscles – it supports nervous conduction, assists the utilisation of iron and activates several enzymes. Sufficient salt consumption is also essential for mental and physical fitness. Finally, sodium is important for bone composition, while chloride, as an essential component of stomach acid, plays a role in digestive processe.

A sufficient supply of salt is especially important for the elderly – as the body ages it is more difficult, even for healthy people, to maintain a constant fluid balance, as an ageing body is less able to balance out deficits. However, it is important for people of all ages to consume sufficient salt because, like vitamins, salt is not produced by the body. Salt deficiency affects concentration and general performance and can also result in headaches and even migraine. A salt-deficient diet can also have an adverse effect on cholesterol levels and consequently on cardiac and vascular health.

On the other hand, it has not been proved that excessive salt increases blood pressure to dangerous levels. In fact, current studies show that even when a strict “salt diet” is followed, blood pressure decreases by only a small margin. The reason is not surprising: as a rule, a healthy body will eliminate any surplus salt through the kidneys. Essentially, low-salt food is not even required for people suffering from high blood pressure. In only half of patients does any relationship exist between salt and blood pressure, and only 20% are salt-sensitive in the strict sense.

One should therefore be careful about advising someone to completely give up food which contains salt. The important thing is to maintain a well balanced, healthy diet containing all life-essential minerals, which more often than not includes a “pinch” of salt.

 

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