While salt is a common and essential part of our diet, we mostly hear about its potential health risks, more so when over-consumed. However, salt’s bad rep overshadows its role in brain function, a lesser-explored area, is equally compelling. In today’s article, we look at the link between your brain health and salt intake.
TL;DR Article Summary
While we need salt for nerve function and fluid balance, too much salt can harm cognitive performance, potentially leading to premature memory decline. Striking a balance is important—salt is absolutely essential to support our basic bodily functions, but not so much as to result in health issues.
Understanding Salt and Its Types
Salt is a mineral consisting of sodium chloride (NaCl). We get it either from sea water (aka sea salt) or mine from salt deposits (aka, table salt). There’s also Himalayan pink salt which has higher amount of trace minerals.
These three have slight differences in taste, texture, and mineral content. But what they all have in common is that they supply our body with sodium, without which your body can’t perform basic life functions.
The Role of Sodium in the Body
- Sodium’s job is to maintain fluid balance, transmit nerve impulses, and regulate your blood pressure and volume. So, despite its bad rep and links to hypertension and heart disease when overconsumed, no one can deny that sodium is crucial for our body’s proper functioning. 
Salt and the Brain
Salt has a fundamental impact on your brain’s function and health. Sodium is one of the electrolytes along with potassium and magnesium that are pivotal for nerve impulse signaling—a basic life process that governs all brain activities. This includes your cognition, memory, and even mood.
That said, the relationship between salt and the brain isn’t all gleamy, especially when it comes to high sodium intake, which we’ll look into now.
The Link Between High Salt Intake and Cognitive Function
While we can’t ignore sodium’s importance for nerve transmission, too much of a good thing can become a poison and sodium is a prime example of that. Put simply, overconsumption of sodium can have detrimental effects on your cognitive function. Several studies link high sodium consumption to lessened cerebral blood flow. Over time, this can potentially lead to cognitive decline and worsening of brain health. 
Salt’s Impact on Mood and Mental Health
Too much sodium can lead to mood disorders such as anxiety. It’s thought that this is because high sodium intake triggers our body’s stress response. But it’s just as bad with too little sodium intake, which can lead depression symptoms. This underlines the importance of balance in your diet.
How Much Salt, Then?
Leading health organizations generally recommend limiting your daily sodium intake to less than 2300 milligrams (about a teaspoon of salt). This is to reduce the risk of hypertension and heart disease first and foremost, but also relates to your brain health.
With all the warnings about its potential risks, it’s easy to forget that salt is essential in our diet. Our body can’t function without its main component, sodium. As we’ve repeated and can’t stress enough, aim to strike a balance to ensure you’re getting the brain benefits without putting yourself at risk.
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- Mente A, O’Donnell M, Yusuf S. Sodium Intake and Health: What Should We Recommend Based on the Current Evidence? Nutrients. 2021 Sep 16;13(9):3232. doi: 10.3390/nu13093232. PMID: 34579105; PMCID: PMC8468043.
- Mohan D, Yap KH, Reidpath D, Soh YC, McGrattan A, Stephan BCM, Robinson L, Chaiyakunapruk N, Siervo M; DePEC team. Link Between Dietary Sodium Intake, Cognitive Function, and Dementia Risk in Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A Systematic Review. J Alzheimers Dis. 2020;76(4):1347-1373. doi: 10.3233/JAD-191339. PMID: 32675410; PMCID: PMC7504986.