Too much salt is bad for you.

Have you ever had your parents or maybe a relative say that to you at a family dinner when you were growing up?

I have…and my guess is you have too.
And because of that I’ve always been pretty mindful of how much salt I consume.

Recently though there have been a rash of articles, fueled by studies, that suggest that maybe salt is not that bad after all. So I thought I’d take a look at that today and try to determine if there’s any credence in these new revelations.

Before I get into the specifics, let’s take a step back.

What exactly is salt anyway?

Salt is composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. It’s the 40% sodium that is what potentially causes all the problems.

Salt has long been used as far back as 2000 B.C. as a food preservative. The reason it is effective as a preservative is that it draws the water out of food which eliminates the moisture that bacteria need to thrive in.  On nutrition labels they most always list the amount of sodium an item contains, not the amount of salt.

How much sodium should you be consuming per day?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that your recommended salt intake be about one teaspoon per day. According the Center for Disease Control website, your body needs .5 grams each day to function normally.
How much does the average American consume per day?
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Americans consume on average 3.6 grams of sodium a day – about 56% more than the recommended 2.3 grams.

Why are health issues associated with consuming too much salt?

The problem with too much salt in your diet is that it can cause your body to retain excess fluid. When this happens it increases the pressure of blood pumping through your arteries and veins. Too much salt can also lead to changes in your hormonal system which can result in the narrowing of your arteries.  Both of these situations directly cause high blood pressure, which, of course, can lead to heart attack and stroke.

To make sure you don’t suffer the consequences related to over-consumption of salt, it’s important to understand what foods contain a lot of salt.  The biggest culprits are processed foods and restaurant food. If you eat a lot of bread, pizza, processed meats, soups, sandwiches, snacks and cheese, chances are you’re consuming over the daily recommended level of sodium. Some condiments, such as soy sauce, are also high in salt.

Five steps to reduce your salt intake:

  1. Always read food labels and shy away from foods with excess sodium levels.
  2. Limit your intake of processed, restaurant and fast food.
  3. Drink water, not sugary drinks.
  4. Choose natural pure foods when possible.
  5. Avoid sodium-solution-injected meat and poultry. ie. Cold cuts
The bottom line is that if you eat healthy and exercise regularly, you’ll not only keep your blood pressure in check, you’ll never have to worry about the other potentially debilitating effects related to the over-consumption of salt.

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