A question i have been getting a little more frequently at the moment is, “why do i eat oil and salt?” or “is it unhealthy to eat oil or salt?”.
It is a little frightening to see an increase in this question, as it shows how many do have a fear of certain foods. And that there is food shaming and food guilt. Not to mention those who preach about how bad salt and oil are, are actually having an impact on people.
My answer is that no, it is NOT unhealthy to eat salt or oil. Of course, it is all about moderation and balance.
Many people do eat alot more salt than is necessary and some people use more oil than is necessary. HOWEVER the people worried about their salt and oil intake are most often not the ones who need to be worried.
You can read a post about salt HERE
Salt is actually essential, and there are a number of complications if you don’t eat salt. Your organs and muscles need salt to function properly, so there can be risks of heat failure or muscle spasms if you don’t get enough salt. Also, if you don’t get enough iodine, which is a risk if you are a vegan and don’t salt your food, this can lead to hypothyroidism, when your thyroid can’t make enough of the hormones. This in turn can affect your metabolism and lead to other problems due to that.
Also in some cases, if you drink alot of fluid without eating enough salt it can lead to hyponatremia, which is when there is too little blood sodium and this can lead to the brain swelling, which can lead to seizures, coma and death.
So if you exercise it is extra important to get the right salt amount if you want your muscles to work as they should. Salt is an important electrolyte which you need and if you are drinking alot of water, you also need to balance it out with salt. The right salt and water intake is important both for strength training and endurance – but i am hoping that all of you who read this are clever enough to know this.
Of course using too much salt isn’t good, but as mentioned… if you don’t consume any salt you will also face health problems.
If you are someone who cooks from scratch, then i would recommend either salting the food while cooking or afterwards. For someone who eats alot of premade and processed food, then they are likely getting enough salt just from the prepackaged food and then it is not recommended for them to salt their food – or atleast do it very minimally.
Note, if you do want to limit your salt intake you could always opt for example herbamare, instead of normal white table salt.
And with oil, well oil isn’t essential and you can be healthy without eating oil. However you do need essential fatty acids.
Some people choose to eat their fat sources from the actual food source, such as olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut (fish, eggs – if not vegan) etc And that is ok as well.
However, oil can help enhance flavour, can make food more crispy when frying, can make food less dry. Not to mention, if you aren’t eating any other fat source with your meals, it will help with the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins.
For some people, they also need oil to help them reach their daily energy requirement. So they may add coconut oil to smoothies, or extra oil when frying. And oils such as flax seed oil and walnut oil can be a good way to get in plant based sources of omega 3 (note, just don’t heat them up!).
No, oil won’t clog your arteries or cause heart attacks like some people claim. HOWEVER, high amounts of trans fats (which is found in processed foods as well as in animal products), can overtime lead to cardiovascular disease, however there are other factors involved as well. Such as genetics, lifestyle, if you smoke or drink etc But high amounts of animal fats is far worse than oils. Also consuming alot of saturated fats from animal products such as cream, cheese, wholefat milk & milk products is worse than consuming mono and polyunsaturated fats from oils or plantbased foods.
You can read more about fats and why we need them HERE
It is also important to mention that fats are important for satiation, for your skin and your hormones. Of course, you may want to consume the actual food source as then it adds more “bulk” rather than oil which adds energy, without any bulk.
But don’t be scared to use oil or eat food with oil. You don’t have to drench your food in oil, and you can choose to eat most foods with little to no oil – that is ok. However if you are eating out, or you are offered food, know that it is ok to food that has been fried or has some oil on it.