Two wellness experts weigh in.
Okay, let's level-set: It's time to start thinking of salt as an essential luxury ingredient—the jewelry on every meal. Hear us out. Salt crystals are multifaceted force fields—earthly treasures that will amplify your meals and wellness. Derived from seawater and salt beds, good, mineral-rich salt is essential for staying properly hydrated, for maintaining healthy mineral levels, for cognitive function, for the thyroid and nervous system, and can even help to optimize sleep.
To help us get the 411 on maintaining optimal health with salt, we reached out to two wellness experts, Dr. James DiNicolantonio and Max Lugavere.
According to Dr. James DiNicolantonio, "Salt is necessary and good for us. Eating more of the right salt will reduce the amount of sugar in our diets, which can in turn help people to lose weight, have stronger bones, prevent memory loss, and even fix diabetes."
Yes, you're hearing this right—eat more of the right salts and your meals will be more flavorful—and your health will improve. Out with sugar, in with salt—we're here for it. Dr. James DiNicolantonio, elucidates that the "Minerals [in salt] actually make up your first line of defense against oxidative stress. They literally make up your antioxidant enzymes, so if you want to protect the health of your cells and mitochondria, you literally need optimal intakes of minerals or your shields go down."
According to Max Lugavere and Dr. DiNicolantonio, eating a lot of the right salt is also essential for mental health and cognitive fluidity. Dr. DiNicolantonio elaborates, "There [are] actually studies showing that if you induce low sodium levels in animals, you can actually cause cognitive impairment and memory impairment."
The key to all this, however, is that we need to be consuming good salt. Table salt—the little white crystals found in salt shakers at most restaurants and in processed food—is bad for us, there's no denying that. It's crucial to use mineral rich salts like flaked sea salt, pink Himalayan salt, sea salt, and so forth. Just as with other ingredients such as olive oil, produce, fish, and meat, good salt is worth investing in. Good salt will make your meals and drinks into more flavorful, annunciated versions of themselves.
For even more briny information, we asked experts Dr. James DiNicolantonio and Max Lugavere to help break it all down for us.
What are the benefits of eating good, mineral-rich salt?
Dr. James DiNicolantonio: "Salt is needed to form stomach acid, digest food, and absorb nutrients. It is also very beneficial for sports performance as it helps to boost blood volume, lowers heart rate, and reduces the rise in core body temperature with vigorous exercise. Salt is important for hydration, energy, and nerve transmission."
Should we be putting salt in our water, or just salting our food?
Dr. James DiNicolantonio: "Salting food to taste is a great way to incorporate salt as it is generally tolerated better when added to food instead of fluids. However, consuming certain flavored salt drinks is also a very good way to increase dietary salt intake and hydration."
Favorite salt brands?
Dr. James DiNicolantonio: "Redmond real salt."
How does salt affect sleep and alertness?
Dr. James DiNicolantonio: "Low-salt diets have been shown to worsen sleep, as they increase numerous stress hormones, in particular, epinephrine (adrenaline) and noradrenaline."
How do salt and mineral levels and hydration affect cognitive function?
Max Lugavere: "Electrolytes which include sodium help conduct nerve signals and regulate fluid balance in the brain. In the periphery, salt is important to help regulate blood pressure which ensures that the brain is getting the oxygen and other nutrients it needs to function properly. When people don't get enough sodium, a condition called hyponatremia, symptoms akin to dementia can appear."
What are some foods that contain natural electrolytes?
Max Lugavere: "All natural, whole foods contain electrolytes. For example, bananas, avocados, and salmon are great sources of potassium. Broccoli is a great source of calcium. And celery is a source of a small amount of sodium. Interestingly, the most difficult electrolyte to find in whole foods is sodium, a mineral which has become vilified by some, and this is the mineral we lose the most of when we sweat vigorously. While most Americans ingest a ton of sodium due to overconsumption of packaged, processed foods and restaurant food, including fast food, healthy eaters actually need to ensure that they're getting enough, and salting your food to taste is a great and easy way to achieve this."
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