OK, so you probably already know that eating a lot of sugar is bad for you, especially processed sugar. But what about salt?
Salt has definitely had a bit of a bad reputation in the past. You may have heard that it has been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure.
And if you like to add it to every meal, this can be a bit worrying. So, I decided to do my own research.
WHY SALT IS IMPORTANT FOR THE HUMAN BODY
Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride. And sodium is a very important element that our body needs in order to function normally. It helps to:
- Transmit nerve impulses
- Influence the contracting and relaxing of your muscles
- Maintain the balance of fluid in your body.
While it’s very important to have enough sodium in your diet, having too much in your body can be harmful.
SODIUM AND HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
The doctors are not exactly sure why salt may lead to high blood pressure. But one of the most recent theories is that sodium stimulates adrenaline secretion which then constricts your arteries and causes high blood pressure.
Studies have shown that when participants were able to moderately reduce their salt intake, there was a decrease in their blood pressure.
While this is good news, there is still not a clear indication that you’ll reduce the risk of heart disease if you lower your blood pressure by reducing your salt intake.
SODIUM AND HEART DISEASE
A low-salt diet does not necessarily mean that your risk of heart disease will decrease.
In 2011, scientists did a review of seven studies that dealt with heart disease and salt intake. And they found that reduced salt intake had no effect on the risk of heart disease.
Actually, for people who already have a heart condition, low salt diet may be even worse.
In one study I found, those with existing heart failure increased their chances of death when they changed to a low-salt diet.
So, it’s really difficult to say that a low-salt diet actually takes away the risk of heart disease. It really depends on each individual and more studies are definitely needed.
SODIUM AND WEIGHT GAIN
Salt definitely can affect your weight in more than one way. Here’s what I found.
Eating a lot of salt can cause your body to retain more water. And then that water can show up on your scales as extra pounds.
THIRST AND SUGARY DRINKS
Foods high in salt will also make you thirsty. And when you’re thirsty, you might reach for drinks packed with sugar and extra calories.
One recent study found that if you reduce the amount of sodium in an average child’s diet by 50%, their intake of sugary drinks decreases by about two per week.
SALT MAKES YOUR FOOD TASTE BETTER
Salt makes things taste better and of course, when something tastes great you’re more likely to eat more.
This may cause you to eat much more than your need.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Sometimes it’s hard to stop eating chips or buttery popcorn just because it tastes so good!
WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOUR SODIUM INTAKE IS TOO LOW?
While it may seem a good idea to lower your sodium intake, low-salt diets can lead to:
- Increased levels of blood cholesterol and blood triglycerides
- Insulin resistance
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Hyponatremia (abnormally low sodium levels), which causes fluid retention, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and nausea
HOW MUCH SODIUM DO YOU ACTUALLY NEED?
As you now know, too much sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, and weight issues. But as I just mentioned, having too little sodium is also not good for you.
So how much sodium do we need?
The table salt that we usually consume contains only around 40% of sodium, and the rest is chloride. So if a food label says sodium instead of salt, you should multiply that number by 2.5 to get actual salt content.
The maximum amount of sodium that you should be consuming every day is 2,300 milligrams.
To say it in real-life terms, it’s a little less than a full teaspoon of table salt.
Now this recommended amount drops down to only 1,500 milligrams per day if you have a condition such as high blood pressure.
Middle aged people, senior citizens and anyone of African descent are also advised to only have 1,500 mg as well.
HOW CAN YOU EAT LESS SALT?
Even if you don’t add salt to your meals, you’ll find that many foods you eat have a high sodium level. These are usually processed foods, pre-packaged foods, bottled sauces, and of course fast food. Some processed foods have around ¾ of your recommended sodium intake.
Other high-sodium items that you most likely use a lot of include ketchup, soy sauce and salad dressings.
You can start to keep an eye on these when you are at the grocery store, and over time you will understand more about which products are low in sodium and which are not. Just remember to pay attention what the label says – salt or sodium.
Some brands actually make low-sodium, unsalted, or sodium-free products which are worth checking out.
But you don’t want to cut sodium out completely. It is absolutely necessary for some of your bodily functions and having too little salt can also cause some serious issues.
Adding a high quality salt such as Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt to your meals can give you the sodium and minerals that your body needs.
SO IS SALT BAD FOR YOU?
Salt is necessary for your body to function properly but as with all foods, having too much of it is not a good idea.
It’s best to stick to the recommended amount per day so that you don’t need to worry about fluid retention and other possible health problems.
And of course, if you are trying to lose weight, excess sodium may delay or stop your weight loss.
Keep an eye on your sodium intake and try to eat clean if you can, so you can get closer to your weight and fitness goals.
Love Rachel Xx