The truth about salt: The good, the bad & the unexpected

Nutritionist Cyndi O'Meara breaks it down.

By Contributor • 3 years ago • HEALTH & FITNESS

 

How many times have you been told to reduce your salt intake? If you’re eating too much of it, that’s fair enough. But if you’re only using a little salt as a condiment, then don’t change the amount you’re using – change the kind of salt you’re using.

Very few foods have been vilified like salt, saturated fat and sugar, yet each one of these foods have been in the diet for a lot longer than the disease they supposedly cause.  It’s not so much the food that is the problem but what we’ve done to it:

The truth about salt

Sodium, one half of salt, is an essential nutrient. It’s vital for cellular function, nutrient absorption in the digestive tract, kidney health, adrenal function, and cardiac health. Sodium is an electrolyte, it plays a role in maintaining a normal blood pH, regulating the amount of water in your body, conducting nerve impulses, and controlling muscle contractions including your heart muscle.

If salt is so important then why are we told to reduce it? The usual criticism against salt is that too much of it causes hypertension (raised blood pressure), in turn elevating the risk of a heart attack or stroke. But research shows that this may not be correct.  A 2014 Cochrane review of eight trials showed that reduction of salt had only a weak benefit for cardiovascular events and deaths and no significant benefit in overall mortality.

So what does this mean for the humble salt? Well, for starters, not all salts are the same and choosing the right one is key.

How to pick the right salt

The refined table and cooking salt we use is almost completely devoid of nutrition: it is a chemical substance which can contribute to oedema, excess weight, high blood pressure, kidney disease, liver congestion and arteriosclerosis, as well as muscle weakness and calcium store depletion.

During the refining process, up to eighty-two trace minerals and essential nutrients are destroyed by the 1200-degree heating process, leaving only one compound – sodium chloride.

But it’s not only what the manufacturers take out during the refining process; it’s what they put in. The additives are bleaches and anti-caking agents, such as calcium phosphate monabasic (341), sodium aluminosilicate (554), and aluminium calcium silicate (556).

But you don’t have to eat refined salt. Take a trip to your nearest health food store or the health food section of your supermarket and pick up some unrefined sea salt or Himalayan rock salt. It’s not sparkling white like refined salt, but it’s better for you.

Most salts contain very little iodine, an important mineral essential for health, and especially for the integrity and health of the thyroid and required by every cell in your body. Many soils are deficient in iodine, therefore the food grown in these soils is also deficient. The best sources of iodine are seaweeds such as kelp, nori, wakami, dulse and the like. Combining sea salt with finely chopped seaweed will ensure you get an adequate supply of iodine and the other essential minerals for health. At Changing Habits we have created a mix of Himalayan salt and dulse a condiment rich in 86 minerals including iodine, iron and DHA.  Iodine is not a stable mineral and it can leach not only from the fortified refined salt but also the seaweed, so it’s important to keep this seaweed salt in an airtight container.

How to identify hidden salt

Apart from the obvious salt names on the ingredient list here are other refined salts to be aware of; Disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium nitrate, sodium citrate, sodium chloride, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium glutamate, sodium lactate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium metabisulfite, sodium phosphate trisodium phosphate.  As you can see the current theme is sodium.

How much salt is enough?

The dietary guidelines which are outdated from the latest research on salt recommend 1600 mg sodium a day (4 g salt – just under 1 tsp)  they would like to see 1/2 tsp achieved.  Research has shown that there is a “J-shaped relationship” between cardiovascular risk and sodium. This means that low-sodium diets and very high-sodium diets both carry a higher risk of heart disease.

Words by Cyndi O’Meara, Founder of Changing Habits


About  Cyndi
@changing_habits | www.changinghabits.com.au

Cyndi O’Meara is a nutritionist, best-selling author, real food advocate, international speaker, film maker (What’s With Wheat, 2017) and the founder of Changing Habits, an online holistic health destination offering wellness products, programs and guides to nourish yourself and your family.


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