When Cordelia, the youngest of the monarch’s three daughters in William Shakespeare’s famous play King Lear, was asked to profess her love for her father in return for one-third of his kingdom, she claimed she loved him more than salt—the fundamental tastemaker in food. That’s how prized, vital and intrinsic salt is to our palate. Your body needs an optimum amount of salt for its daily functions because the components of salt—sodium and chloride—are necessary to extract nutrients from food. But you should have the correct type of salt, and in the right proportion.

Why you need it

All of us lose sodium through sweat and urine. Salt plays an important role in replacing this. Sodium consumed through salt facilitates the absorption of proteins into the bloodstream, influencing cell membrane permeability. “But excess salt is not good for proper protein metabolism. Some proteins act as transporters in cell communication. Excess sodium levels in the body can render these transporter proteins non-functional by making changes in the structure of the protein molecules,” explains Indrayani Pawar, chief dietitian at Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Mumbai.

Salt need not be your only source of sodium—the latter occurs naturally in many fruits, vegetables, legumes and meats. “When you consume sodium in this unrefined form, it helps to regulate body fluids because it is an electrolyte. Such consumption helps in improving nerve function, glucose absorption, betters muscle contraction and blood regulation,” says obesity consultant and cosmetic physician Manjiri Puranik, founder and director of InstaSculpt, a non-surgical obesity and aesthetic clinic in Mumbai. An imbalance in sodium levels can lead to dehydration (when the sodium level is low) or water retention (when the sodium level is high). The sodium in salt can regulate water retention and control blood volume and pressure.

Shilpi Madan for Mint

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