We all hear that too much salt is bad for us, especially if you have high blood pressure. But salt tends to hide EVERYWHERE doesn't it? Even if you make every attempt to eliminate salt from your diet, it is so difficult to know where else it might be lurking! You might be surprised to now that 75% of our salt intake doesn't actually come from the salt shaker!
Now, first you need to understand that there are lots of different kinds of salt: pink, iodized, kosher, sea, etc. And not all types of salt should be considered bad for you. Salt comes from salt mines in the ground, or from evaporating the water out of salt water. Whatever the type, they all have one thing in common......they all contain a very important mineral.....SODIUM!
In food, salt is used for both flavour, and as a preservative. Salt helps to preserve food by drawing out the water that bacteria and mold need to grow. So the food has a longer shelf life because it will not spoil so quickly.
Unfortunately, reducing your salt intake is not as straight-forward as saying "no" to the salt shaker. It is hidden in almost every type of processed food and snacks like chips, pretzels and salted nuts. But it doesn't stop there! Salt is also hiding in canned foods, pickled foods, boxed foods, deli meats, restaurant food, and fast food. So one of the only true ways to get a handle on exactly how much salt you take in on a daily basis is to cook your OWN meals from clean, wholefood sources so you have total control over all the ingredients!
Salt vs. Sodium:
The real name for salt is "sodium chloride." It's about 40% sodium and 60% chloride; this means that one teaspoon of salt (5,000 mg) contains about 2,000 mg of sodium.
Sodium itself is not that bad! In fact, it’s an essential mineral and an important electrolyte in the body. It helps with fluid balance, and proper nerve and muscle function.
The problem however is when our body takes in too much sodium! Regularly getting too much sodium can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, stomach cancer, and kidney stones.
That one teaspoon with about 2,000 mg of sodium is pretty much your entire day’s worth of sodium. People who eat a lot of pre-made, packaged foods tend to eat way too much sodium. In fact, 90% of American adults consume more than 2,300 mg per day. The average intake is closer to 3,400 mg of sodium per day!
If you're at high risk for those conditions, then you probably shouldn't have more than just 1,500 mg of sodium each day.
Sodium and high blood pressure:
So why is salt so bad when it comes to increasing our blood pressure? Have you ever wondered why the more salt we eat the thirstier you get?
Well here's why that happens....
The salt you eat gets absorbed quickly into your bloodstream.
Your body recognizes that the blood is too salty, so more water is added to the blood to dilute it (thirst is the body's trigger to take in more water). More water in the blood then means there is more fluid that your heart needs to pump around and more fluid pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. It is this pressure that increases your blood pressure readings. The excess fluid also sends more blood to the kidneys so the sodium can be filtered out into the urine making the blood less salty.
So now you can see why too much sodium increases your blood pressure and also puts increased strain on your kidneys. The same additional pressure will also be put on other critical vessels in your brain and heart which can result in heart palpitations and also contribute to causing a stroke.
You can counteract this effect by reducing the amount of salt you eat (from both processed foods and the salt shaker). In fact, limiting salt intake has been shown to slightly reduce blood pressure and the risk of all these other potential health problems I mentioned above.
Now here's an important note! Don't think you need to cut salt out of your diet altogether. Salt also contains iodine which is an important mineral necessary for healthy thyroid function. When our thyroid function is compromised, we experience issues with our metabolism, our sleep, our body temperature and moods just to name a few.
Iodine used to be a mineral naturally found in abundance in the soil in which our vegetables are grown. But unfortunately, changes in modern-day farming in order to speed up the rate of growth and the amount of vegetables grown, means the soil is now often depleted of this important mineral.
So what CAN you do to BALANCE your salt intake and get the best of both worlds?
1. Eat a clean, wholefood, plant-based diet rich in minerals (ideally from organic sources)
2. Eliminate the use of table salt and the salt shaker but add the occasional pinch of sea salt or himalayan salt instead.
3. Eliminate canned, processed foods that are high in added salt.
4. Eat plenty of naturally-sourced fish to make sure those iodine levels don't suffer from reduced salt intake.
If you are healthy and eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, then you probably don’t need to worry about your salt intake. Feel free to add a bit of healthy salt during cooking or at the table for flavour but stay away from the typical iodized table salt.
If your doctor has told you to reduce your salt or sodium intake, then you can do this by reducing your intake of processed foods, adding less salt to the food you make, and eating more plant-based foods.
There has never been a better time than now to learn how to make simple, healthy home cooking part of your weekly routine. But good news! It doesn't have to be part of your DAILY routine!
With the right knowledge in meal planning and meal preparation and a plan personalised to take into consideration YOUR health and life challenges with all the support you could possibly need, you CAN finally reach your health and weight loss goals. CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE YOUR FREE STRATEGY SESSION TODAY.