A breakfast egg without salt? That doesn't taste good! Salt is one of the most important seasonings, but the "white gold" has a reputation for making people sick. And rightly so?
Salting food is an old phenomenon. Even in ancient times, people salted their food, but not so much for taste reasons as to preserve it. In fact, salt is an excellent way to preserve food. In times when the next meal wasn't a few clicks away in the smartphone ordering app, this was a very significant achievement.
Now, of course, times have changed, but salt still plays a significant role in today's diet, is found in almost every food, especially processed ones. Isn't there a danger of consuming too much salt?
The "salt in the soup
Salt is not only very suitable for preventing food from spoiling, but in addition to its typical inherent taste, it also ensures that organic seasonings can be dissolved better, making them more noticeable. Salt thus serves as a flavor enhancer and makes other spices such as herbs or pepper taste more intense.
In human nutrition, table salt, which consists of 95 percent sodium chloride, plays the most important role. As already mentioned, there is hardly any processed food that does not contain table salt. The World Health Organization (WHO) assumes that two-thirds of the daily salt intake is not taken in through targeted salting, but is contained in the foods eaten anyway. This means that the more processed foods we eat, the more salt we consume without even picking up the salt shaker.
Critical salt consumption?
According to the WHO, people should consume a maximum of six grams of salt a day, but only two to three grams are needed to compensate for the constant loss through sweat, urine and feces. During intense physical exertion, this requirement increases, but only very slowly: per hour of endurance training, the additional salt requirement is up to one and a half grams.
The average salt intake in Western European countries is currently around ten grams, which is well above these recommendations. The WHO therefore regularly warns against excessive salt consumption. This is because it is associated with cardiovascular disease. Researchers estimate that 2.3 million people worldwide die each year as a result of diseases caused by excessive salt consumption. The primary problem: salt causes blood pressure to rise. This effect is so strong that in many cases, reducing daily salt intake can have the same effect as using a blood pressure-lowering medication.
It's the diet that counts!
Those who eat an average diet do not usually have an additional need for salt, rather the opposite. On the other hand, those who take care to avoid processed foods to a large extent and prepare meals themselves have considerably more leeway. By way of comparison, a Bic Mac contains around one gram of salt, while 300 grams of chicken breast contains only 0.3 grams.
So if you eat primarily unprocessed foods and prepare your meals fresh, you definitely have room to experiment with your salt intake. And that can be worthwhile, because salt has some exciting properties that can also be used for training.
More salt for more pump!
Anyone who has ever gone into a workout after a visit to a fast food restaurant will probably have noticed an enormous pump. No wonder, after all salt binds water in the muscles, which improves the supply of nutrients.
If you want to forgo the calories from these meals, you can achieve the same effect by taking one to three grams of salt just before your workout. But be careful: On the one hand, you should always keep an eye on your total daily intake, and on the other hand, this effect cannot be produced permanently.
The body cannot be tricked for long!
This is because our body can adapt very quickly to changes in salt intake. This can also be seen very well in the so-called "dehydration" of competitive athletes. It is common to manipulate salt intake before a competition, either to lose weight or to improve form. Usually, salt intake is increased for a few days, then radically reduced and, if necessary, increased again just before the competition. Since salt binds water in the body both in the muscles and under the skin, the effect on weight and appearance can be immense, but it is always temporary. This can be seen particularly well in competitive bodybuilders, whose shape is also always dependent on salt content. However, the tightrope walk between top shape and washed-out details is complex. Massive changes can occur within minutes.
That's why there's no point in banning all salt from your diet to combat water retention in the long term, as long as it's within the normal range.
Conclusion: Do you know your salt intake?
So before you start thinking about manipulating your salt intake, you should first find out how much salt you actually consume on a daily basis. Most popular nutrition tracking apps are great for this.
If you cook a lot of fresh food, you'll probably find room to use salt in a targeted way, whereas if you rely mainly on processed foods, you're more likely to consume too much salt than too little.