To Salt or Not to Salt?

To Salt or Not to Salt?

Wow, for every study that comes out indicating that salt is bad for us, another comes out stating it’s good for us. What and who do we believe?

For years we have been told to watch our salt intake or to just do away with salt all together. We all know that a little salt makes our food taste better. A good fresh ripe juicy tomato is just not the same without a little salt on it.

In the past I cut my salt intake down to almost nothing. Once I did that and went out to eat or went to someone’s home who still cooked with salt, I realized how little I missed the salt and how salty the food taste. I also realized how the salt made a lot of the foods come alive. I learned to use different herbs to flavor foods instead of using salt. Umm, I still gained a little “water weight” no matter how much salt I cut out of my diet.

I have always wondered if salt was really that bad for you. I grew up in the south where there were cow ranchers and horse farms. I remember clearly the ranchers would put “salt blocks” out for the animals. The animals knew when they needed the salt for their body. They never seemed to abuse the salt block, it was just there for the need. It is well known that animals have a great sixth sense about them and they know when they need the extra salt intake.

Recently a new study was released in the American Journal of Hypertension involving 6,250 people. The study’s conclusion found there were no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure.

Intersalt was a large study published in 1988 that compared sodium intake with blood pressure in people from 52 international research centers. The study found there were no relationship between sodium intake and hypertension. In fact, the people who ate the most salt, about 14 grams a day, had a lower blood pressure level than the people who ate the least amount of salt, about 7.2 grams a day.

Cochran Collaboration, an international, independent, not for profit health care research organization published a review of 11 salt reduction trials in 2004. This review was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The review found that over the long term low salt diets, compared to normal diets, lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number in the blood pressure reading) in healthy people by 1.1 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 0.6 mmHg. Thats like a comparison of 120/80 to 119/79. Doesn’t seem like much does it?

Im sure we all have heard of “table salt”, Himalayan salt, sea salt, etc. There are many different types to buy and it can become confusing as to which is the best for us. While I was doing my research for writing this article I found there are two major types of salt, natural salt and processed salt.

Processed salt or table salt contains approximately 97.5 percent sodium chloride, 2.5 percent man-made chemicals such as ferrocyanide and aluminosilicate. These two agents are used as moisture absorbents and flow agents. You can buy table salt with or without iodine in it. Processing table salt is dried above 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. It is believed the excessive high heat alters the natural chemical structure of the salt.

Natural salt on the other hand contains 84 percent sodium chloride, 16 percent naturally occurring trace minerals, including phosphorous, silicon and vanadium. I feel that natural salt can be beneficial to many of our biological processes. Sodium is a major component of our blood plasma, lymphatic fluid, and extracellular fluid. We were taught in medical school that sodium carries nutrients in and out of our body’s cells and helps maintain our acid-based (pH) balance.

It is believed that processed salt may cause conditions such as different forms of arthritis, the dreaded cellulite, kidney stones, gall bladder stones, and yes, high blood pressure.

So who do we believe? I hate to say it, but after doing the research myself, I’m still not sure. Studies can be a-skewed to go which ever way the company that is paying for it wants it to go. However, I am switching over to a natural salt instead of what I’ve bought in the past. I am also deciding for myself that by using natural salt in moderation, my body will continue to be healthy. I want my cells to be able to process the nutrients and sodium helps increase the glial cells within the brain. Sodium and chloride are also necessary for the firing of the neurons. At my age, I need all the firing of neurons in my brain I can get. Moderation is the key!

Here are a few interesting links on the subject:

http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/305/17/1777

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD009217/abstract

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=its-time-to-end-the-war-on-salt

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