Salt Intake: Best in Moderation
In the last post, we discussed sugar cravings and the effects of that substance on the body. Today’s topic is salt, which, unlike processed sugar, I do not deem a poison. However, excessive amounts of sodium can wreak havoc on the body, including increased risk of heart disease, some cancers, and higher blood pressure.
Salt cravings can indicate different things:
Fragile fingernails or ridges
A mineral deficiency in the body
There are over 40 essential minerals in salt. Our foods today are grown in soil that is depleted of these minerals, so we often do not get sufficient amounts.
Salt helps re-establish electrolyte balance and blood pressure.
Many women crave salt when menstruating—blood volume is changing and their body is sloughing off old blood, including minerals.
If eating seaweeds does not appeal to you, there are products now available that replace minerals easily.
Easy to use
Minerals from sea algae in capsule form
No seaweed flavor
Salt has been integral to the human diet since people discovered the need to preserve foods to avoid starvation during hard times. As far back as 6050 B.C., salt has been an important part of world culinary history as humans learned to better control food reliability. A highly valued item, salt was used as a method of trade and currency, and its production was legally restricted in ancient times.
Canadians consume about 3400 mg of sodium per day, which is more than double the recommended daily intake of 1500 mg for adults.
The good news: Picking up the salt shaker for home-cooked meals isn’t going to push your sodium intake into the danger zone.
The bad news: If you’re not watching your sodium intake from processed foods, there’s a good chance you’re already there.
Most of the sodium North Americans eat comes from packaged, processed, store-bought, and restaurant foods. Only a small amount comes from salt added during cooking or at the table.
Salt has its place in our diet—as a mineral that supports multiple metabolic processes, we rely on it for survival. Cutting out salt entirely isn’t a reasonable goal. The problem is that when a diet is composed of too much processed food, salt intake can soar well above the healthy limits, which then makes it a dangerous toxin.
This is a case of “too much of a good thing,” but there are ways to increase awareness and better monitor daily salt intake. With ubiquitous food labels on commercial products, tracking sodium levels can be easy.
Here is a quick guide on food labels:
Low sodium = 140mg per serving
Very low sodium = 35mg per serving
Salt- or sodium-free = 5mg per serving
These front-of-the-package claims can help you spot legitimate lighter-sodium products while grocery shopping—look for chicken broth, canned beans, bread, and soy sauce labeled “low sodium.”
You may see the phrases “unsalted” or “no salt added,” but neither one means that a product is naturally sodium-free. Everyday healthy picks like milk, shrimp, and chard all naturally have more than 100 mg of sodium per serving. Common unsalted foods include butter, nuts, crackers, and pretzels.
So, salt is not inherently bad, but in our culture we tend to consume much higher levels than are necessary or even healthy. In the next post, I will provide a list of different ways to reduce your salt intake without draining the fun out of life.
Cameron Moffatt DOMP