Salt has gotten a bad rep.
Everyone is worried about keeping their salt intake low so they skip salting their food. The truth is, most excess salt exists in processed foods. Eating a diet composed of mostly clean, unpackaged, and nutrient dense foods like fruits, veggies, healthy fat, lean meat, and complex carbohydrates, it’s quite easy to stay within the recommended daily allotment of salt.
Hooray! No more bland food!
What are the risks of excess salt?
There are some serious risks of a diet high in sodium, such high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and headaches. In addition, salt can have side effects that effect your progress in the gym such as weight gain and bloating.
The role of salt in the body
When sodium is consumed within a healthy range, it plays many vital roles in the body. Not only is sodium an important electrolyte, but it also regulating fluid levels, improves brain function and helps with muscle cramps associated with dehydration (just to name a few). (2)
The problem occurs when we consume too much and sodium causes stress on our heart. Imagine turning up the water supply to a garden hose…..the press in the hose increases as as are water is blasted through it. Extra sodium pulls water into your blood vessels, making them work harder to pump blood throughout the body.
This is also the reason your highly salty Chinese takeout gave you a bloated belly and “spare tire” around your midsection the next day!
So how much salt is OK?
According to the American Heart Association (1), the recommended intake of sodium is between 1500mg – 2300mg per day. If you’re wondering what that looks like in a variety of foods, here are some examples:
- McDonalds hamburger = 469.3 mg of sodium
- 1 Tablespoon of soy sauce = 879mg of sodium (Coconut Aminos are a better option)
- Packaged Marie Callendars frozen lasagna = 1,620 of sodium
- Grilled 5 oz chicken breast = 141mg of sodium
Do you see how easy it is to over consume sodium when you have a diet high in processed foods?
Is there a difference between salts?
The short answer is yes, kind of. Some salts are better than others, simply because they are less “refined” or processed.
- Sodium chloride (table salt): An industrial product made in large processing plants and makes up over 90% of the salt used in commercial industry. It is heated to around 1200 degrees F and treated with caustic soda, then “anti-caking agents like aluminum hydroxide are then added. Unfortunately high levels of aluminum are very dangerous and carry a ton of side effects such as a possible link to Alzheimer’s disease. (3) This type of salt should be used sparingly.
- Sea salt: Similar to table salt, in that it is mostly just sodium chloride, however depending on where it was harvested, it usually does contain some trace minerals such as potassium, iron and zinc.
- Kosher salt: Similar to table salt but less likely to contain additives, and has a larger salt “flake”
- Pink Himalayan crystal salt is sourced from the deep mines within the Himalayas in large crystals. It contains over 80 essential minerals. Opt for this type of salt whenever possible.
The bottom line:
You truly don’t need to be afraid of the salt shaker if you are eating a pretty clean diet. Not sure? My Fitness Pal is a great tool to track your food intake for awhile, and under the nutrition section you can see what your average sodium intake is per day to know if you are in a healthy range. Whenever possible, grab less refined versions of Pink Himalayan Salt over higher processed table salt.
Guideline on portion sizes:
- 1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium
- 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium
- 3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,725 mg sodium
- 1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium