Those who are health conscious may have learned that keeping salt consumption down is good for health. But according to Ayurveda, the right amount of salt in the diet is absolutely necessary. Salt helps maintain one’s vital electrolyte balance and is necessary for proper fluid balance in the body. This post will explore Ayurveda and salt and the benefits of getting a good balance of salt in one’s diet.
Ayurveda and Salt and The Five Elements
Ayurveda teaches that all things in nature are made of a balance of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and each of the six tastes — sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent — are made of various combinations of the five elements.
The salty taste is made of water and fire, which makes it nutritive, building, warming, and balances Vata dosha. Since salt helps retain vital fluids in the body, it has a mild laxative effect. In fact, those with a predominant Vata constitution are often prone to dry skin and internal dryness which may contribute to constipation. One of the solutions to this is getting adequate salt. In addition, drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy amount of beneficial oils and fiber, and getting plenty of physical movement all will help regulate bowel function.
In addition, according to Dr. Lad salt “improves the flavor of food, aids digestion, absorption, and elimination of wastes” (1). The water element is important for taste and since salt is composed in part of the water element, it improves our ability to taste our food. We are about 60% water so healthy levels of water or rasa in the body are crucial for all bodily functions. Also, though excessive salt intake can dry the skin, proper salt intake and thus fluid balance will contribute to healthy, lustrous, smooth skin.
Furthermore, fire is vital to digestion and absorption. The fiery aspect of salt assists digestion. Furthermore, by assisting with fluid balance, the body is better able to flush out metabolic wastes as a product of having proper fluid balance.
Can You Have Too Much Salt?
It’s all about balance in Ayurveda and you can absolutely have too much of a good thing! All the cooks out there know that just the right amount of salt can wonderfully enhance a dish. On the other hand, too much salt will ruin any food. Also, consuming high amounts of salt at once results in an emetic effect (causes vomiting) so balance and proportion are key in salt consumption.
Also, when it comes to Ayurveda and salt and the doshas, salt will aggravate Kapha and Pitta doshas when taken in excess. Vata types will typically benefit from having a bit more salty food than Pitta and Kapha types as the salty taste with its earth and water elements is especially balancing for Vata dosha.
Furthermore too much salt may lead to hypertension, premature graying and wrinkles, and even balding. Also, because salt helps retain water, too much salt can lead to edema (water retention) and swelling (1). A bit of salt in your beverage on a hot day can relieve thirst; too much salt will make you even more thirsty.
Best Ways to Enjoy Salt
Sea salt, rock, salt, kelp and other seaweeds are common ways in which we consume salt. Ocean fish, soy sauce, coconut aminos, and cottage cheese also possess the salty taste (1). If you want the best quality salt, it is true that not all salt is considered equal. Source and technique make a difference in terms of the quality and nutritional value of salt.
Most conventional salt is acidic and contaminated with heavy metals, micro-plastics, and other toxins so it’s important to make sure the salt you consume is toxin-free and high quality.
Bamboo Purple Salt 9X, for instance, is premium sea salt that’s highly alkaline, free from toxins, and rich in bioactive minerals. It’s made by roasting sun-dried Korean sea salt in bamboo pillars capped with red clay 8 times in a pinewood fire at 1472°F. On the 9th time, the bamboo salt is melted with a resin fire above 2800°F. The artisan roasting process results in high quality sea salt with medicinal properties.
Citrus and a Pinch of Salt
In addition to cooking with salt, there are many refreshing Ayurvedic beverages that call for a pinch or two of salt. If you have ever spent time in India, you may be familiar with salty lime sodas—soda water, fresh lime juice, and a bit of salt. This simple yet refreshing beverage combines water with citrus and a bit of salt to restore fluid balance and quench one’s thirst. This is especially welcome in hot climates!
Another way to make good use of salt is to make a simple electrolyte beverage. Some consider this a natural or “Ayurvedic Gatorade.” All you need is…
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of sweetener such as coconut sugar, raw sugar, honey, or maple syrup
juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime
1 pint room temperature purified water
- Put all ingredients in a mason jar, cap, and give a shake until all ingredients are evenly mixed.
- Sip throughout the day and keep handy especially on hot days out in the sun.
There are many benefits to healthy salt consumption, including fluid and electrolyte balance. In addition, salt helps augment the flavor of food and boosts digestive function. Especially if you live in a hot climate or have a Vata constitution, salt is balancing and beneficial. Cook with salt or try making refreshing electrolyte balance drinks to maintain healthy fluid levels and quench your thirst.
(1) Lad, V., & Lad, U. (1994). Ayurvedic cooking for self-healing (2nd ed.) The Ayurvedic Press.
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher.