You know you're not supposed to overdo it on table salt, salty chips and fries, and processed foods because consuming too much sodium can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of suffering from heart disease or a stroke. While these concerns are real, two research papers recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggest experts have long misunderstood salt's effects on the body and overlooked a potential benefit, which could include burning body fat.
When researchers gave 10 male Russian astronauts on two separate space missions progressively saltier meals, the saltiest ones caused the men to produce the most urine—even though they didn't drink more, as you'd expect. After all, everyone knows that salt makes you thirsty, and it's long been thought people get a desire to drink to help their bodies excrete the excess sodium when they pee.
Remember: Salt's newfound fat-burning powers don't strike out decades worth of warnings regarding excess sodium. Overdo it, and your body could produce too much glucocorticoid, which is linked to osteoporosis, muscle loss, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic problems, according to Jens Titze, M.D., corresponding study author and kidney specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research in Erlangen, Germany, who spoke with the New York Times.
So while you shouldn't go to town with your salt shaker—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still suggests consuming no more than one teaspoon of salt per day, and more research is needed to nail down exactly how salt affects the body. This news should make you feel at least a little better when you order your margarita with a salty rim, or if your fries ever need a little extra oomph!
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.