It needs a little salt. How often have amateur cooks heard this expression? And, for sure, what failed recipe can’t be fixed by some good old table salt? Everyone loves salt! Even the most irredeemable of culinary sins can be redeemed with salt! What dish can’t be made palatable, what omitted ingredient can’t be compensated for by the magic crystal? We should be singing the praises of salt! Right? Apparently not.
Sure, salt can enhance the taste of food, and hide a multitude of transgressions, it may not be the best thing for your health. Read on to find out how cutting down on salt may help to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of a plethora of health difficulties.
Health Benefits of Salt
While too much salt should be avoided, a reasonable amount is vital to the human body. It helps to regulate water levels, transmit nerve signals, and maintain normal pH levels in the blood. Because the mineral is not produced by our body, but is excreted, there is a daily need for salt intake.
The American Heart Association advises that most people keep their sodium intake under 2,500 milligrams, or per day. However, if you have high blood pressure or if you are at risk for high blood pressure, the recommendation is to reduce that intake to 1,500 mg per day. Groups at high risk for high blood pressure include African Americans, those with hypertension, kidney disease, or diabetes. If one of those groups includes you, that translates to less than half a teaspoon for all your snacks and meals.
High blood pressure has been linked to tripling the risk of heart disease and stroke, and is known to increase the risk of microvascular complications like kidney disease, eye disease, and nerve damage.
The World Cancer Research Fund found a connection between high salt diets and stomach cancer, with 14% of all stomach cancer cases in the UK attributed to diets high in salt.
If you are having trouble ending your love affair with salt, here are a few helpful hints:
- Stop reaching for the salt shaker. Most food has a high enough salt content already, so chances are, you’re just putting salt on your salt. The American Heart Association says table salt consists of about 40% sodium, so no more shaking!
- Read food labels. If foods say how much sodium is in food, rather than how much salt, you can find out the salt level by multiplying the amount of sodium by 2.5. Look for low sodium labels at the grocery store. You’ll find reduced sodium options of several brands of cereal, pasta sauces, canned vegetables, and crackers.
- Eat fewer processed food. Salt is a very effective preservative, which is why it is so often included in packaged and processed food. In fact, processed foods account for most of the sodium in people’s diets. Try to buy fresh food, or prepare your own, so you know what’s going in it.
- Find out if the restaurants you frequent will skip or cut down on the salt in your dish. Many chefs will make an allowance, if you ask.
- If your restaurant posts nutrition facts on its menu, take special note of how much sodium is in a serving. Try to order lower sodium options.
Table Salt Vs. Sea Salt
You may have seen a lot of food labels mentioning the use of sea salt in their products. If you thought all salt came from the sea, this may clear up a little confusion.
Table salt has the advantage because of its finer consistency, it is free flowing and is usually cheaper. Sea salt, on the other hand, is less processed an may not include anti-caking agents (check the packaging to verify.)
Sodium Ferrocyanide is an anti-caking agent in table salts. Research on rats has revealed slink to kidney damage, although the dosage was considerably higher than that found in most human diets.
What are you doing to lower your salt intake? Let us know what changes you’re making.