I noticed a lot of posts lately on salt and sodium issues and wated to give a scientific overview as I noticed a lot of misunderstandings flying about here. My background is in nutritional science and as part of my training that covered chemistry and biochemistry - I dont know everything but I'd like to pass on my understanding in order to clear up any worries people have.
ok, first off it is 100% INCORRECT to use the words' salt' and 'sodium' pretty much interchangably they are not the same thing at all.
Sodium is an 'element'
Salt is a 'compound' (and may not even contain sodium at all)
Remember studying the periodic table of 'elements'?
On the left you have the 'alkaline metals' (commonly referred to for dietary purposes as 'minerals'). In the alkaline metals group are things like calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium. All of these are capable of making compounds and 'salts'
Salt on the other hand, referrs to a chemical compound that is the result of chemical interation between an alkali and an acid.
Some common 'salts' are:
Sodium Chloride (table salt)
Potassium Olivate (liquid soap)
Sodium Palmate (common soap)
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (nasty toxic detergent used in shampoo)
Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom Salts)
So we can see that wehn we say 'we need salt' this is incorrect, we do not need to eat compounds such as those listed above. Almost ALL 'salts' are distinctly toxic to the human organism.
Our bodies do need alkaline metals in their ELEMENT form though.
Sodium the element is known as an 'electrolyte' because it is an electrically charged ion (cation in Sodiums case).
Just like with the protein argument, where we know that we dont use protein as a whole but chop it up into its component amino acids and then put those back together within the cells to make human proteins, same thing with compounds, the body if forced to eat them has to break them up to use the elements. Sodium salts are hydrolised (split by water) into their elements so the body can use them.
Therefore: we DO NOT NEED TO EAT SALT (the compound). We ONLY need to eat the mineral ELEMENTS!!
For those who have been scaring yourselves over low 'salt' and hyponatremia, please let me put your mind at rest hyponatremia is low serum SODIUM' not 'salt deficiency'. So again, it is a need for the body to eat SODIUM the mineral element.
The next important thing to understand is that for the body to keep the correct osmotic pressure at the cellular level (basically, proper fluid balance so the cells work properly) the correct ratio between potassium and sodium must be adhered to.
All plant foods are low in sodium and high in potassium which suggests a natural inclination to need much more potassium than sodium. Plus the body is very conservative with its sodium; rarely wasting any - in fact despite sweat tasting 'salty' we actually lose very little sodium as our bodyies are super-efficient at not wasting it, potassium on the other hand we liberally lose.
Do not rely on the RDA system to give you correct info about your sodium/potassium balance either as RDAs are skewed to modern diets and have much higher sodium and much lower potassium recommendations than is necessary. For example: in the words of Dr Passwater:
"In 1985, The New England Journal of Medicine published an article titled "Paleolithic Nutrition." The authors, who had credentials as anthropologists specializing in the Paleolithic era, determined that, on average, our caveman forebears got around 11,000 mg of potassium daily and about 700 mg of sodium. This, by the way, is about the same ratio that modern-day hunter / gatherers have
Today, in the United States, that 11,000 mg has shrunk to 2,500 mg of potassium. Meanwhile, the sodium intake has increased from 700 mg to 4,000 mg. You would not expect that any animal species, human or otherwise, could live for several million years with a huge potassium intake and rather modest amounts of sodium and then suddenly switch this ratio without issues.
A daily ration of 2,500 mg of potassium is far too little. And, of course, as virtually everyone should know, 4,000 mg of sodium is at least ten times as much sodium as people need"
Fruits contain plenty of potassium and green leaves have potassium and sodium in the correct balance.
Please do not worry about SALT, our body has no need for the chemical compound SALT (if we did why did nature stick it in the sea and deep underground??)
Don't believe the salt hype that is massively prevalent in the raw food movement today, these salt disinfo agents are selling special 'healthy salts' at vastly infalted prices to con you via the use of fear into supporting their vastly inflated incomes.
I hope this makes sense and helps some of you who were worried.
Thank you for this wonderful explanation Star. I am book marking this for those future scare discussions:)
Thanks PK :-)
am happy to help
Well sure Rock, but due to modern refrigeration, thank god such methods are no longer necessary. The trad way of coating hung meats with a layer of salt was of course, to cover with a layer of POISON that would deter even the scavenging bugs from entrance.
It was therefore not an important part of our diet exactly, more there because it could not all be washed off prior to consumption, as much had absorbed into the flesh. Such unfresh meats must have tasted disgustingly salt by todays's meat-eaters' standards.