We all know that consuming too much salt can be hazardous to our health. However, that doesn’t mean you should eschew sodium all together—especially on the ketogenic diet. In fact, a certain amount of sodium is necessary to ensure the body functions properly, and individuals practicing keto may need even more of this essential substance. Read on to learn more about the role sodium plays in our diets and how salt and ketosis go hand in hand.
The Role of Sodium
Sodium tends to get a bad rap, due in part to the fact that it’s often associated with processed and fatty foods. So, you might be surprised to learn that sodium is an important and beneficial part of the diet. Along with improving the taste of food, bringing out the natural flavors in everything from steak to scrambled eggs, salt helps the body maintain fluid levels in the urinary, cardiovascular, and digestive systems. Since one of sodium’s major roles in the body is maintaining fluid levels, having too little salt may result in the body producing excess liquid.
Moreover, regulating fluid levels in the blood effectively lowers blood pressure.
Salt also plays a key role in nerve communication and muscle health. An electrolyte, salt protects the body from muscle weakness and cramps. So if you’re deficient in this area, you might find it difficult to exercise and perform other functions important to your health.
As a bonus, many types of processed salt include other nutrients. For example, table salt is often fortified with calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Clearly, sodium is essential for maintaining a healthy diet. But what happens if you consume too little of this key substance?
Individuals who are sodium deficient may develop a condition known as hyponatremia, which can lead to symptoms such as muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue, and restlessness. Hyponatremia can also lead individuals to experience seizures or even suffer a coma. Here are just a few of the other medical conditions and symptoms that can result from having too little salt in your diet:
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Thyroid problems
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Addison’s disease
Of course, there are also dangers associated with having too much salt in your diet. Along with raising your risk of suffering a cardiovascular event, overconsumption of sodium can result in increased blood pressure. Further, individuals who consume too much sodium may experience digestive distress, as salt disrupts the natural balance in the gut. In the long run, these bacterial changes could even raise an individual’s risk of stomach cancer.
Salt and Ketosis
When it comes to salt and ketosis, keto dieters need to be even more careful about their food choices. Also known as keto, the ketogenic diet is an eating plan that involves consuming foods that are high in fat and low in carbs in order to lose weight and achieve other health benefits. By depriving the body of sugar, dieters start burning stored fat rather than glucose for fuel, thereby entering a state known as ketosis. Not only does research show that keto practitioners can lose weight at a faster rate than those on a low-fat diet, but it also reveals that the diet may help prevent diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.
In light of these health advantages, it’s no surprise that keto is gaining popularity both in the U.S. and abroad. Still, embarking on a keto diet is not without its challenges. Because keto is known to lower insulin levels, people utilizing this dietary strategy tend to expel sodium at a rate that’s faster than normal. According to a 2012 study from the American Journal of Physiology, patients with type 1 diabetes are at a higher risk of losing salt through urination. With these statistics in mind, it’s clear that keto practitioners have to be careful about their salt intake.
Maintaining Sodium Levels on Keto
Whether you’re already on a keto diet or looking to partake in this eating strategy for the first time, getting enough salt in your diet is essential. As you limit the amount of carbohydrates you’re consuming on a daily basis, your body will begin to produce less insulin and start ridding itself of fluids. During this period, it’s easy to become dehydrated and sodium deficient. You may even develop symptoms of a condition known as keto flu. People suffering from the dreaded keto flu endure headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and stomach upset.
If you want to avoid keto flu and protect your overall health, take steps to increase your sodium intake during your first weeks on keto. Experts recommend that each meal feature 3000 to 5000 milligrams, or around 2 teaspoons, of sodium.
Is It Possible to Have Too Much Salt on Keto?
Even if you know that keto dieters need to increase their sodium intake, you might be hesitant to add too much salt to your dinner. However, the truth is that people who opt for high-quality sea salts are unlikely to over-season their food. The key is to start with tasty foods that you enjoy and add only as much salt as is necessary to accentuate the natural flavors.
Want to score extra nutritional points? Choose mined pink Himalayan salt, which includes more than 80 trace minerals, such as calcium, potassium, iodine, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Calcium is particularly important for women, who are often deficient in this area. Along with improving the overall flavor of food, Himalayan salt has been said to boost energy levels, enhance adrenal function, and even alleviate pain due to migraines. For best results, avoid refined table salts. Bleached and processed at high temperatures, these salts are typically devoid of any nutritional value.
Adding sodium to your diet can feel unnatural. However, for keto practitioners, it’s a key part of maintaining overall health and achieving your weight loss goals. And the good news is you’re unlikely to overdo it on this substance. So, the next time you scramble an egg for breakfast or grill up a juicy steak for dinner, don’t feel bad about shaking a little sea salt on top to improve the flavor; your body may thank you.