In the past few decades, excess salt and sodium intake have been blamed for countless health conditions in Western society, including hypertension, heart disease and stroke. The research on salt has centered around determining the optimal levels of salt consumption to optimize health, however, over the years, the upper limit has been on a continuous decline.
We’ve seen countless health campaigns and commercial products all touting “reduced” or “low” sodium to counteract sodium’s advertised negative effects. However, despite the growing awareness, chronic disease and illnesses remain a growing issue!
What’s going on here?
Has new research proven that the decline in salt is required or could a low-salt diet be counter-productive, actually leading to increased health risks and illnesses?
Recommended Salt on the Decline: The Great Salt Debate
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average American consume roughly 3,300 mg of sodium per day. This puts the average diet beyond the USDA’s recommendation of 2,300 mg per day, and well-over the American Heart Association’s 1,500 mg recommendation for general health and disease prevention.
The argument for reduced salt consumption rests on the theory that dietary salt consumption was extremely low in the Palaeolithic diet, at approximately 768 mg of sodium per day, and experienced little to no chronic Western diseases we see today. These hunter-gatherer’s added little to no salt to their foods, leading modern researchers to believe that added salt may be ultimate culprit for disease and illness.
This has sparked major debate in the health community, with two opposite salt camps: those who believe that minimizing is the missing link to disease prevention and the other arguing that a healthy range of salt supports and optimizes human health.
The Importance of Salt to the Human Body
Despite the bad press and debate discussed above, there is no doubt that an adequate intake of salt is required to maintain good health. In fact, according to the Institute of Medicine, a daily consumption of 1,500 mg per day is required to replace the minimum amount lost through sweat and urination. This doesn’t take into account other lifestyle and activity level factors.
Sodium is essential for maintaining the volume of plasma to allow adequate tissue perfusion, extracellular fluid and normal cellular metabolism. Sodium is found in your blood and lymph fluid and is crucial to physiological (especially cardiovascular and nervous system) health.
The importance of sodium is further proven when you study the effects of sodium deficiency. In fact, when your daily sodium level dips too low, mammals experience symptoms of hyponatremia, like brain swelling, congestive heart failure and cardiovascular distress. Interestingly, when salt intakes are too low, mammals are biologically programmed to seek out salty food and often consume far more sodium than required for homeostasis – this behavioural change further proves its biological importance.
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Don’t Fear Salt, Choose Your Salt Wisely!
Your body needs salt to regulate blood pressure, maintain brain function and support the function of your adrenal glands. But, it isn’t processes table salt that your body needs to perform optimally.
Instead, try Himalayan salt. This type of salt has a higher mineral and potassium content that any other natural, unprocessed salts, helping you maintain a balanced potassium-salt ratio. The ratio of sodium-to-potassium in your body is the more important than sodium levels alone because potassium helps to regulate sodium’s positive effects.
Not only is it healthier for you, but Himalayan salt is known for its flavor and ability to bring out deep flavors in your foods. Because of this, you’ll find that you need less of it compared to regular table salt. In other words, it’s a bigger bang for your buck!
To incorporate Himalayan salt into your diet, avoid cooking with salt and simply add it to taste. If you’re eating out, ask for your food to be prepared without salt and use sea salt at the table (or bring your own Himalayan salt) to add flavor.
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