Salt: A love / hate relationship

What’s not to love and what you should hate.

As most of us know, too much salt can be a major contributor to high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, or kidney disorders. But our bodies also need a certain amount of salt every day, because it’s required by all cells to maintain fluid balance, and it’s vital for proper nerve and muscle function. Because salt is excreted through urine and sweat, the most intense exerciser’s need even more of it to maintain a proper balance.

So how much salt should we be consuming? The amount of salt we need on a daily basis varies with each person, depending on age, size, activity level.

Generally, it’s agreed that our bodies need about 500 mg of sodium a day to function properly. Have you ever wondered how much that is? What does 500 mgs look like? That’s about a quarter of a teaspoon of table salt. Most people average about 5,000 mg of sodium per day. That is about 10 times as much as our bodies require and more than 2X the recommended maximum. So unless you’re working out (about the amount of an elite athlete) and excreting excess sodium, you may be getting way more than you need. That can lead to a list of health problems associated with high blood pressure.

Even if you don’t believe in, or care about the medical repercussions of excess salt consumption, how about this? It’s estimated that most of us are carrying around an extra five pounds of water weight, retained simply because of the excess salt in our bodies. Drop five pounds of water weight just by passing up the salt shaker? Sounds like a good deal to me!

I love watching people in restaurants pound the salt shaker over their food before they even taste their food.

 

NO SALT? Ahhh, real taste!

Almost all processed foods contain high levels of sodium. Levels in some cases so high, that you will get enough sodium to last several days. For example, Wendy’s Triple Baconator 2780mgs of Sodium!! But you know that a burger with three patties and bacon and cheese will be horrible. How about a nice healthy salad? TGI Friday’s Santa Fe Chopped Salad? 1800mgs!! Not too good either is it? OK so Cheerios…uber-healthy Cheerios…one cup of Cheerios contains 200 mg of salt, so you’re kicking off your day with 8 percent of your recommended sodium. Salt has been used as a preservative for centuries to cure meats and pickle vegetables, among other uses.

 

And while we’ve developed new preservatives over the years, salt has other advantages as a food additive. It can thicken soups and sauces aid in making breads, cookies, and crackers moister. It can enhance certain flavors (like sweet and sour) and mask other tastes, like the chemical additives in soft drinks. So even if you’re steering clear of salty treats like pretzels, pickles, and popcorn, if you check your labels carefully you may find you’re still getting a fair amount of sodium from food items that don’t even taste salty. Foods labeled “diet” or “light,” may also have pretty high sodium levels.

Companies add extra salt can make food taste better but because of labelling laws, still allow them to be advertised as low-calorie, low-fat products. Even if salt isn’t in the ingredient list it can be spread out throughout the ingredient list under different names. Make sure you check the overall sodium on the nutrition label to determine the total sodium content. And don’t forget to take the serving size into account.

Many food manufacturers will say that their product contains several tiny servings of salt instead of a couple of regular servings to minimize the less savory elements of the product’s nutritional profile.

Common hiding spots in some popular foods…

Processed Meats – 1 slice of processed meat starts at 300mg sodium – 2 slices of bacon is 400mg (plus the fat) Soups – Processed soups start in and around 900mg of sodium Canned vegetables – 1200mg. Yes you read that right. You need to rinse them Frozen foods – 2 slices of frozen pizza 1000mg .

If you are looking to lower your sodium or are salt sensitive the most important thing to do is check the labels of everything you eat and make sure you’re not getting more salt than you need.

 

Screw this up with salt?

One of the best things our family ever did to improve the taste of foods was to stop adding salt when cooking foods that called for it in a recipe. The real taste of food is incredible when you allow it to come through naturally!!

 

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