Salt is necessary for life
Published 2:31 pm Friday, May 14, 2010
The role salt has played throughout history is quite compelling.
Settlements would set up their communities around salt deposits. In ancient Greece, laborers would take part of their wages in salt.
During medieval times the only way to preserve meats, other than by smoking, was by salting. In fact before refrigeration, the only way to preserve milk was to make it into cheese, which also required salt.
Salt is a mineral that is composed of 39% sodium by weight, and 61% chloride. While our bodies do need chloride, most of the nutritional attention these days, is given to sodium. Sodium is essential for life. In fact, it is so important, that humans have specific sensors on their tongues to detect it.
Sodium is crucial for maintaining the health of every cell in our bodies. It plays a pivotal role in controlling fluid flow in and out of cells. Sodium is present in the fluid between cells. This is called extracellular fluid.
Potassium is present in the fluid inside cells. This is called intracellular fluid.
These two minerals need to be in constant balance so that nutrients and waste products can move across cell membranes. If either of these minerals is in over abundance or is deficient, cellular health will be compromised. Sodium plays other important roles in our body. These include, controlling blood volume, transmission of electrical nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and contraction of blood vessels in response to nervous stimulation.
While its obviously clear that we need sodium to exist, obtaining too much, and the wrong kinds of sodium is harmful. Consuming excess sodium contributes to high blood pressure. Research also shows that too much sodium is associated with stroke, calcium deficiency, osteoporosis, stomach ulcers, stomach cancers, fluid retention, and weight gain.
However, reducing sodium too much can be just as dangerous. Too little sodium can cause poor heart rhythms, sudden death, and heart attack in hypertensive patients.
So how much sodium is too much? According to the Food and Drug Administration, we should consume no more than 2,400 milligrams per day. This may sound like a lot, but the average American consumes between 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams a day. Humans eat more salt than any other mammal, and also have more health problems than any other mammal.
When it comes to purchasing salt, I dont recommend commercially refined salt. This type of salt is stripped of all its nutrients except for the sodium and chloride, and is heated to such high temperatures that the chemical structure of the salt can change.
Also, the two most common anti-caking agents used in commercial salts are sodium aluminosilicate and alumino-calcium silicate. These are both sources of aluminum, which is a toxic metal. Aluminum has also been linked to Alzheimers disease.
When purchasing salt I recommend natural sea salt. Also,remember that sodium is added to so many foods by manufactures, that its hard to avoid.
Many foods contain tremendous amounts of sodium even though they dont taste salty. I recommend becoming a label reader. Its the best way to know just how much sodium youre getting.
David Crocker of Landrum has served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., strength coach, S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, USC-Spartanburg baseball team, and Converse college equestrian team. He taught four semesters at USC-Union. David is also a regular guest of the Pam Stone Show.