Who doesn’t enjoy salt! Like sugar and fats it truly makes our food experience a better one. Most people enjoy salt. We also all assume it is BAD for us. Some of us go to great lengths to avoid it. Sometimes our doctor orders a low-salt diet. Is is that simple or is there more too it? Find out below either via the short video below or in more depth by reading this article.
According to Health Canada, the average adult needs about 1500 mg of salt daily and should not exceed 2300 mg. On average, Canadians eat about 3400 mg of sodium each day. Most excessive salt intake comes from processed foods and NOT from the salt shakers on your table. Here is an interesting factoid for Canadians: on average, only 2% of your sodium intake comes from chips and other salty snacks, compared to 14% which comes from bread-like products.
I found the most outrageous amounts of salt in products like instant noodle soups and soup flavourings. Nissin Cup Noodles contains a whopping 49% of the DV of sodium in its 64 gram container. But wait! Even that was topped by NONGSHIM Bowl Noodle Soup, “Endorsed by Professional Chefs” with the 2013 Chefs Best Award, with 74% of the DV of sodium in its 86 gram bowl. Regardless of the serving sizes, these packaged Styrofoam cups of soup are clearly marketed as a single serving for one person.
Salt is one of the food industries BFF
Michael Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, explains that salt is used for three reasons: (1) to mask the hideous taste of lab created processed foods, (2) because it is much cheaper than using fresh spices, and (3) as a natural preservative so your food can sit on the shelves… forever. I am very loosely paraphrasing Mr. Moss as he is much more diplomatic than me.
Are you eating too much salt?
Be especially vigilant when it comes to the serving sizes of snack foods such as chips and pretzels. A common serving size for chips is 1 ounce. This translates to about 20 chips, give or take a few. Also, you may not think to check the salt content of foods that do not taste salty. Be aware, you will find salt hidden in sweet, savoury, sour, pungent and salty foods. It all adds up! Having said all that, I do not mean to imply that salt it bad. We need salt in our body to maintain proper blood pressure and for many other functions. We are not meant to be salt-free creatures. But we are also not meant to eat processed salts either. So let’s review some spicy details about salt.
Facts about salt
Most commercial salts are processed into sodium chloride, lacking the broad range of trace minerals found in natural salts.
There is general consensus that too much salt causes ill health.
We need salt. Salt is NOT bad. Many foods such as seaweeds and fish naturally contain salts.
Not everybody who has high blood pressure is sensitive to normal and reasonable intakes of unprocessed salts.
How much salt do we need?
There is certainly no universally accepted norm when it comes to salt intake. One outstanding problem I have noticed is that population studies are weighted towards processed salts, because that is what most people eat. I would not be surprised if natural mineral rich salts behave differently in our bodies than processed salts. Secondly, salt is almost always delivered in the form of processed foods. This makes it tricky to isolate what are assumed to be the ill effects of salt itself from the sugars, poor quality fats, preservatives and empty calories that accompany their consumption.
Contrary perspectives on salt
Not everyone agrees with conventional wisdom about salt. Dr. Mercola, in his article Why High Salt Consumption Alone Will Not Increase Your Heart Disease Risk, notes that evidence universally (versus just American derived statistics) suggests that if you are eating unprocessed salts you can exceed the recommended daily limits without concern and perhaps even benefit. In 2013, the Institute of Medicine released a report admitting that there is no strong evidence that lowering salt intake to 1500 mg, as is often recommended to those with diabetes and high blood pressure, will be of benefit; in fact, lowering sodium levels to 1500 mg “may lead to adverse health effects” in some populations. The answer always seems to lie somewhere in the middle. Balance is key!
Put your skills to the test
Take one day to calculate your salt intake totals. Do not forget to factor in all sauces, soups, broths and foods. If you are using the salt shaker as well, then 1 teaspoon of salt is roughly 6 grams of salt, depending on the coarseness of the salt. You might also want to pay attention to the types of salt you are using. Processed foods invariably contain sodium chloride (table salt) and not natural salts.
My Bottom Line: Avoid processed foods laden with refined salts and other undesirable ingredients. If you have normal blood pressure, feel free to add small amounts of unprocessed natural salts to homemade meals. If you have high blood pressure, then small amounts of natural salts added to healthy foods are unlikely to be a problem. Check with your doctor.