Why Salt is Good for You

Salt is Good for You

Did you ditch salt in your efforts to improve health? It’s time to reconsider that. Here are some of the reasons why Salt is good for you

 

Salt is good for you!

When someone decides they are going to start “eating healthy” they tend to ditch the typical diet villains–those foods that mainstream diet dogma has deemed “bad”– fat, sugar, and salt. But just like it’s a bad idea to avoid all fat, not all salt is the same and it shouldn’t be thrown out entirely. Salt can be a beneficial addition to your diet.

Before I dive into why salt is good for you, I want to clarify what kind of salt I’m talking about.

I am not talking about regular table salt– you know, the kind that comes in a blue can with a girl holding an umbrella. That stuff is highly processed, usually bleached, often contaminated, and is lacking the trace minerals your body needs*. This refined sodium chloride is what your doctor really wants you to avoid. And so do I!

Salt is more than just sodium. It’s a mineral-rich supplement that was once so valuable it was used as currency. The salt you should be using– the kind that is beneficial to your health– is as unrefined as possible. My personal favorite is Redmond Real Salt, but there are plenty of excellent unrefined sea salts on the market.

So why salt is good for you?

Salt keeps you hydrated.

That’s right– we need water and salt to stay hydrated.

Hydration is a delicate balance between the amount of water contained within cell walls (intracellular fluid), and the amount of water outside of them (extracellular fluid). This balance is maintained via sodium-potassium pumps in the cell membranes. Both of these minerals are essential, and they are found in unrefined salts (as well as some fresh foods). You can drink all the water in the world, but without salt, your body wouldn’t be able to utilize that water. In fact, you’d become even more dehydrated since all that water would flush out of your system, taking what little mineral reserves you have left along with it (remember the horror stories of frat boys being forced to drink gallons of water and essentially “drowning” in their own bodies?).

When you sweat excessively or get food poisoning, you’re told to replenish your electrolytes so you don’t get dehydrated. Rather than guzzle Gatorade, you could just drink a glass of saltwater, because guess what? Electrolytes are salts. They are the essential minerals needed for a slew of important bodily functions.

Again, this isn’t advocating for the consumption of high-sodium table salt or processed foods. Sodium-free salt substitutes are also problematic, since consuming them can result in excess potassium and insufficient sodium, which disrupts Intra/extracellular hydration. You should be eating foods that are as close to how they are found in nature as possible, and that includes salt.

mason-jar-filled-with-salt-2320244-3Salt contains essential minerals.

Along with sodium and potassium, unrefined salts contain other important minerals such as chloride, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sulfur, and so on (check out Redmond Real Salt’s Elemental Analysis to see for yourself). I could write a book on all the roles these minerals play in your body, from nerve conduction to bone remodeling, muscle contraction, digestion, heart health, and energy production. Instead, here’s a brief rundown:

Calcium: development and maintenance of bones and teeth; muscle contraction; heart function; nerve transmission; enzyme activity; and acid-base balance.

Chloride: hydration/fluid balance (in conjunction with sodium and water); stomach acid production; and acid-base balance.

Magnesium: muscle relaxation, including the muscles of the digestive tract and blood vessels; enzyme activity; DNA production and function; nutrient transfer across cell membranes; and ATP (energy) production.

Phosphorous: bone and teeth health; energy production and exchange; tissue growth and repair (protein synthesis); cell membranes; kidney function; acid-base balance; muscle contraction; nerve conduction; and DNA production and function.

Potassium: hydration/fluid balance; acid-base balance; blood pressure regulation; nerve conduction; muscle contraction; heartbeat regulation; protein synthesis; and carbohydrate metabolism.

Sodium: hydration/fluid balance; acid-base balance; muscle contraction; nerve conduction; stomach acid production; and protein transport.

Sulfur: enzymatic reactions; protein synthesis; production of collagen and keratin; insulin production and carbohydrate metabolism; and cellular respiration.

As you can see, these minerals play many critical roles in the body. Rather than thinking of salt solely as a seasoning, start thinking of it as your daily mineral supplement. It does so much more than just add flavor to food. It provides essential minerals that maintain your body’s health and homeostasis. So it is proved that salt is good for you!

How much salt should you consume?

There’s no definitive answer here*. While high levels of sodium have been linked to high blood pressure and other issues, it appears that the real concern is when sodium and potassium levels are out of balance. A standard American diet of processed foods is high in sodium while being deficient in potassium, calcium, magnesium, and so on. Excess sodium is excreted through the urine and sweat, but this can put a strain on the kidneys over time, especially if you’re not drinking enough water (another epidemic of our modern society).

Once again, salt is good for you! it’s not salt that is inherently the problem, it’s a highly-processed diet. Pure sodium chloride (table salt) would not have been consumed before pre-industrial times. When eating a natural, fresh diet of meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats, high sodium levels are rarely a concern. Unrefined sea salt would not be a burden, it would be a nutritional boon for the essential minerals it provides.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Avoid processed foods, which are high in sodium and lacking in nutrients.
  • Eat plenty of fresh vegetables (leafy greens, avocados, potatoes with skin, squash, mushrooms, bananas, and papaya are especially rich in potassium).
  • Use unrefined sea salt, which contains both sodium and potassium (along with many other essential trace minerals), to season your food.
  • Drink lots of water (half your body weight in ounces, ex: 150 lbs = 75 oz water per day) and for every 8 oz of a diuretic beverage you drink (coffee, tea, etc.) add an additional 12 oz water to replace the lost fluids. Drink more if you live in a very hot/dry climate or if you sweat a lot.

The bottom line: Don’t fear salt!  Salt is good for you! Not all salt is created equal, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you have more questions about why salt is good for you, ask in the comments!

*Note about iodine: Most table salt is iodized, meaning it’s been mixed with iodine, another essential nutrient. Iodine deficiency is common in Americans (and other Western societies), which can result in thyroid dysfunction and goiter. Rather than relying on processed table salt for iodine, be sure to include plenty of quality seafood and sea vegetables in your diet. I like to sprinkle these kelp granules on my food.

**Note for ketogenic diets: Adequate salt consumption is especially important when in a state of ketosis (when ketones are created as fuel for the body). When in ketosis, your body excretes more sodium in the urine, which means you may need to replenish your sodium levels more often and salt is good for you in your keto diet.

Smoky Instant Pot Beef Brisket

Smoky Instant Pot Beef Brisket - Strive to Thrive Nutrition

My Smoky Instant Pot Beef Brisket has a rich barbecue flavor minus the time commitment (or the smoker or the grill)! As a trained chef and former Sur La Table employee, I own my fair share of kitchen gadgets. I’m not quite sure what we’ll even put on our wedding registry at this point, though my fiancé is still determined that we need to get sous to vide machine…

It’s not that I wasn’t aware of how handy a pressure cooker can be. Growing up, my mom used an old-school traditional stovetop pressure cooker to steam broccoli and other veggies in a matter of minutes, a fact I’ve often reminisced about while waiting over a pot of water. But it wasn’t until I saw all the recipes popping up from the fellow bloggers that I realized how incredibly versatile and useful an Instant Pot could be. Stew in under an hour; fluffy rice without fail; nourishing bone broth in a fraction of the time; and my all-time favorite Kalua Pork recipe that used to take all day in the slow cooker could now get on the table in about two hours.

Smoky Instant Pot Beef Brisket

Smoky Instant Pot Beef Brisket:

We picked up this gorgeous piece of local, grass-fed beef brisket at the farmers market and I figured it was the perfect opportunity to create my own Instant Pot recipe to give you all an introduction to this awesome machine.

Normally a piece of brisket would take hours of low and slow cooking to come out tender and juicy. That means being prepared and having the time available to babysit it. How often does that happen? This recipe, on the other hand, could easily be made on a weeknight after work.

I understand liquid smoke isn’t a common ingredient to have on hand. You can omit it from the recipe if you’d like– obviously the brisket won’t have the same smoky flavor, but it will still be delicious. I’ll admit I was hesitant to use it in the recipe.

Having never worked with it before, I was concerned it would overpower the meat, but it added just the right amount of natural smoky flavor.

If you don’t own an Instant Pot, there are directions below for making the brisket in a slow cooker. That being said, I think an Instant Pot is a totally worthwhile addition to your kitchen. Its uses are endless and I plan to showcase more of them on the blog in the future. This is the model I own, for reference:

Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W

Smoky Instant Pot Beef Brisket If you do not own an Instant Pot, see below for slow cooker instructions.

  • 4-5 lbs beef brisket grass-fed
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp maple sugar or coconut or brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder or cayenne (optional)
  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp liquid smoke
  1. If your brisket is in one large piece, cut with the grain of the meat into two equal-sized pieces. This will ensure more even cooking.
  2. Combine all the spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the meat and use your hands to really pat-down and rub it into the meat. Let sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Set the Instant Pot to Saute mode. Add 1-2 Tbsp cooking fat of choice (avocado oil, lard, bacon fat), and once shimmering, add one piece of brisket to the pot.
  4. Sear meat on both sides until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Add the second piece of brisket and repeat it.
  5. Turn off the Saute function by pushing the Keep Warm/Cancel button. Add both pieces of meat back to the pot.
  6. Combine the stock and the liquid smoke. Pour over the meat.
  7. Lock the lid onto the pot. Set to Manual mode and use the + symbol to increase the cooking time to 60 minutes. Make sure the steam vent on the top of the lid is closed. The Instant Pot will start to pressurize and will begin counting down the time once it has reached pressure.
  8. When the time is up, hit the Keep Warm/Cancel button and let the pot depressurize naturally. This will take around 30 minutes. Do NOT open the steam vent to depressurize manually. This will dry out and toughen the meat.
  9. When the pot has depressurized (you will know when the valve in the top of the lid has dropped and you are able to take off the lid), remove the meat and slice against the grain. Serve with the juices. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Instructions:

Cut and season the meat as above. You can either sear the meat in a skillet before adding to your slow cooker or skip the searing step entirely. Add the meat and the stock/liquid smoke mixture to the slow cooker. Cook on Low for 6-8 hours until tender. Slice and serve.

 

Find out more beef recipes…

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