From the beginning of our existence salt has been a crucial part of life. In fact the word ‘salary’ is derived from the word salt because salt was at one time in history a form of currency.
We need salt to live. More specifically we need sodium chloride, the two components that make up dietary salt. These two vital components serve multiple physiological functions from nerve conduction, to fluid balance, to muscle function. In fact, if levels get too low, we die.
Salt is part of that naughty trilogy (fat, and sugar making up the other parts) found in most foods considered to be bad for us. This is because these things cause most foods to taste good to us. Without them, we might as well eat cardboard. The bad part of the good taste is that it lends to its addictive nature, and food companies and their marketing teams really take advantage of this. So much so that around 80% of our salt intake comes from processed foods.
So is salt actually bad for us?
Well as with most anything, too much of it not so good. However salt is really not as bad as it has been portrayed to be. Most of us are aware of the dangers of salt consumption contributing to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Most don’t know that too little salt causes more cardiovascular risk than too much salt. More recent research is showing that salt may not be as bad as once thought and the prevailing wisdom was based on mostly flawed studies.
How much salt do we need?
Current recommendations are at about 6 grams (one teaspoon) a day which is considerably less than the current average. However this comes back to the fact that as a society we eat too many processed foods which is the largest contributing factor to high salt intake. So again, as mentioned in previous blogs, it comes down to balance and lifestyle choices, (starting to sound like a broken record!) If we adopt healthier eating habits sourced from mostly fresh and unprocessed foods, salt intake would not be an issue.