Let's Get Salty!Jul 23, 2021
By: Chad Burnham, DPT, CSCS
Eat Everything With A Grain Of Salt
Like the title says…eat everything with a grain of salt or “sodium”. Are you actually consuming enough salt throughout the day. Well if you follow the American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines the answer is probably NO. Currently the AHA recommends no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.
So you can see that in modern day medicine, many doctors are urging you to cut your salt consumption. But Why? This has been a long debated discussion so let’s dive into it.
First of all the human body requires sodium to survive. Sodium is required to maintain proper fluid balance, contract and relax muscle fibers, transmit nerve impulses, aiding in the digestive process, boost your immune system, brain growth and development, and increased insulin sensitivity. Did you know that thought history, salt has been used to treat a multitude of conditions, including toothaches and stomachaches. Salt was thought to boost health so much that the latin word for “health” is “salus”, which was derived from “sal” (salt)… Interesting!
Now I know what you are thinking, But what if I have or are prone to high blood pressure. Your medical provider may urge you to decrease your daily salt intake. Did you know that the research linking salt consumption to heart disease and stroke is not conclusive at this point. In fact, many individuals with high blood pressure see no significant decrease in blood pressure following a decrease in salt intake.
But I eat healthy and do not eat processed foods. That is great that you are not eating processed foods and we encourage that but if you are not eating salt in addition to a “whole foods diet” then odds are your salt intake is limited. Remember…Salt is necessary for our bodies to function properly.
Salt is an amazing mineral that our bodies cannot produce so it is up to us to make sure that we are not only consuming an adequate amount of salt…but also the right kinds of salt. First off throw the processed table salt away. Because it is processed that means that it has less mineral content and contains toxic chemicals, such as aluminum. Therefore, this type of salt is not ideal to consume. As there are so many types of salt to choose from, let’s make it easy and stick with the three main colors…Pink, Grey, and Beige. If you stick to these three colors and avoid the white salt then you are making the right choice for your health.
So how much sodium should I take?
As of right now the average consumption of sodium in Americans is about 3,400mg per day. Not bad when you compare our consumption to that of Japan that consumes on average 11,000mg of sodium per day. So where should we fall in this spectrum?
One study called the PURE study involved over 100,000 people in over 17 countries and found that sodium intake between 3,0000-6,000 mg per day had lower risk of death and cardiovascular events than a higher or lower level of intake. Well this looks like it could be about the average American sodium consumption right? However, this number for the vast majority of Americans is likely from mostly processed table salt. I personally consume 5,000-6,000mg of sodium per day in the form of unrefined Himalayan pink and sea salt, and I feel amazing! Ultimately, if you are an average American then you are probably ok to aim for this range, but it will come down to your size, body type and activity level, among other factors. The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t be so critical of you salt intake, as long as you are choosing your salt wisely!
So next time you are at the dinner table ask someone to pass you the salt. Salt is not evil and should not be taken away from your food. Your body craves salt for a reason…So let’s get salty!
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