There is a specific reason why salt has gained so much flack over the years.
Salt has become a sore subject for a lot of salt lovers – as many get their hands slapped away by a well-meaning family members whenever they reach for the salt shaker at the dinner table. It’s a sweet sentiment, but there are more reasons than possible high blood pressure to beware salt.
One of the biggest reasons you should be cautious with salt? Salt can make you eat a lot more than you normally would. Why? Because your brain craves flavor far more than it craves satiation.
Today we will be talking about how excess salt can impact your body, and how it can easily lead to preventable weight gain.
So, is salt dangerous?
Salt, in general, is a necessity for our bodies.
Known by its chemical name as sodium chloride, sodium is apart of the natural energy group you may recognize as “electrolytes”. What electrolytes do in your body is control how muscles are powered throughout your body and how water is stored, absorbed and released.
According to a definition from Medline, “The body uses sodium to control blood pressure and blood volume. Your body also needs sodium for your muscles and nerves to work properly.”
While there may be a lot of fear over salt, much of that fear is from confusion on whether or not salt is “dangerous”. It is not dangerous, but it can become unsafe when used in unhealthy amounts.
Salt and why we crave it
When something tastes really good and is pleasing to our taste buds --we tend to keep eating.
Think about it --if there were two bowls of potato chips in front of you, one unseasoned and unsalted and the other dusted in salt and BBQ flavors (or sour-cream-and-onion if that’s your thing) ... which chips do you think you would want to eat more of before getting bored of the taste?
Processed junk foods are created to avoid flavor boredom as much as possible, and salt is where those flavorings start. When a food is not boring to your tongue and brain, you will, without thinking, desire to consume more of it. This is not to say that a slight dash of salt is forbidden, but it is important to know that if there is an abundance of salt, you may be more inclined to continue eating -- even long after you are “full.”
Our genetic desire for salty foods
Many of us have a natural inclination for salty things, and it is due to a specific gene in our DNA.
Those who have this gene, called "TAS2R38", have a natural disposition to enjoy salt, as their taste receptors to bitterness are heightened. The same experience is seen in individuals who have the "PTC" gene, which also intensifies sensitivity to bitterness in foods.
These genes can not only make foods slightly bitter come across as intensely bitter, but also boost the flavor of salt. People who have these specific genes may use salt as a method of masking the intense bitterness that they experience in all of their foods... which can put them at a slightly higher risk as they tend to use more salt in their diets.
As we mentioned earlier, this does not mean that you now have to live a flavorless life.
Salt tastes good, but like anything, keep its use in moderation. Past that, be aware that the more salt a particular food has, the higher the chance that you will desire to eat more of it, even when you are full, just so that you can continue to enjoy and experience the taste.
So keep the portions small, and be light handed when it comes to salt.
Ossola, A. "Here’s What Happens To Your Body If You Eat Too Much Salt." Popular Science. 2015.
"Sodium In Diet: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia." Medline Plus. 2017.
Smith, B. "Love Salt? Studies Show Why It's So Addictive.” Cosmosmagazine.com. 2016.
"TAS2R38 Taste 2 Receptor Member 38 [Homo Sapiens (Human)] - Gene”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. 2018.
"PTC The Genetics Of Bitter Taste." Learn.Genetics.Utah.Edu. 2018.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. This article is for general information only.