SALT: FRIEND OR FOE?

glass-salt-shaker-that-is-half-filled-with-salt-347x544I’m sure we’ve all heard by now that too much salt is bad for our health, right? Or is it?

The recommended daily amount of sodium (as per the American Heart Association along with the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans) is 2,400 milligrams for adults, which is about 1 teaspoon of salt.

There is now other research which suggests that we simply just need to eat more potassium rich foods. “Why the discrepancy?”, you may wonder.

The same research also shows that a diet with a high salt intake has the same impact on blood pressure as a diet that has a low potassium intake. The main problem is due to an imbalance between potassium and sodium.

Those who believe that a lower salt intake is what’s best for their health should be very aware of how much sodium is in prepared foods.

It may surprise you to know that the food industry is the main reason that a whopping 75% of our sodium intake comes from prepared and processed foods that we buy and consume.

If you are considering cutting back on prepared foods then you may want to avoid buying crackers, most canned foods – like soup, as well as most crunchy snack foods such as pretzels and potato chips. The best way to reduce sodium in your diet is to only buy fresh food including vegetables, meat, and seafood. Find low salt recipes that you can prepare and try using more fresh herbs for seasoning.

However, if you believe that sodium is not the problem, then start consuming more potassium rich foods into your diet. These include white beans, dark leafy greens such as spinach or kale, sweet potatoes with the skins, bananas, mushrooms, salmon, plain unsweetened yogurt, acorn squash and avocados just to name a few.

Did you know that it is nearly impossible to get an overdose of potassium from natural sources, unless you are on dialysis or have a special condition? Potassium is an essential nutrient because it is used in your body to maintain electrolyte and fluid balance in your body. Symptoms of potassium deficiency are irritability, fatigue and high blood pressure (hypertension).

Full disclosure: I myself have started doing the latter and started to consume more potassium rich foods. In just the 2 short weeks that I’ve been doing it, I have noticed that my own salt intake has diminished.

Not that I ever thought I consumed too much salt, I just started becoming more aware of all of the “hidden” sources of it in the foods that I was eating, especially at restaurants. I’m also that type of person who when told to “Stop Eating” a certain food will find myself eating more of it.

By having the choice to consume more of another type of healthy food, then I feel like I’m cheating on my diet in a good way!

Marie Pietras, LMT

February 2016

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