Tanja Samalya, MNT
To Salt Or Not To Salt
We all hear that salt is bad for you and leads to high blood pressure and heart disease and needs to be kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, this is too simplified, and avoiding salt completely has many drawbacks and even consequences.
Why is salt so complicated? Well, let me start with why we actually need salt intake. Salt delivers something special. If you guessed sodium, you are right. This life-supporting nutrient helps other nutrients to be transferred into our brains and body, balances blood volume, aids our muscles to contract (yes, that includes your heart!), and optimizes our nerves to activate neurons.
Additionally, it balances our electrolytes and prevents dehydration. The Lancet (the world's oldest, most prestigious, and best known general medical journal)
revealed in 2016 that a low sodium diet actually had a negative effect on rate of mortality and cardiovascular disease. So then why is it that the medical community has worried us for a long time about consuming salt?
Here are two key facts that need to be examined:
· What kind of salt are you using?
· What is your sodium-to-potassium ratio?
When we talk about what kind of salt we are using, we also need to look at what kind of food are we eating regularly. Table salt is really the villain here. It has been stripped of the amazing minerals salt contains and has been extremely processed, and the chemical composition has been altered. This salt is used by many people at home, is in most packaged and processed foods, and is almost always used in restaurants. And don’t be fooled by Kosher salt as it is refined as well. Natural salt on the other side has not been refined and appears greyish, brownish, or pinkish and contains all the nutrients that are essential to good health. A good example is Himalayan Salt, Celtic salt, lava sea salt, Fleur de Sel, or French gray that can be found in most health food stores.
By cooking from scratch and using these salts, you really don’t need to think about your salt intake. However, if you are dining out too much, purchase convenience meals, eat processed snacks and junk food, you are contributing precisely to what your doctor might be warning you about.
Most people are worried about their salt intake when coping with hypertension and heart disease. The Western diet is lacking potassium, and evidence shows that potassium can relax your artery walls and can reduce your risk of stroke. Americans consume twice as much salt as potassium, but the ratio should be five times as much potassium as salt. Again, by consuming a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding the processed foods, you are automatically doing that.
Instead of looking for low-sodium convenience foods, take charge of your own health by eating a whole foods diet, mostly made from scratch, and you will be in control of how much salt and what type of salt you are consuming.
In good health,
Tanja Samalya, MNT