Top Five Myths About Salt

Salt being poured out of a salt shaker

It’s important to know the facts about salt, the most frequently used seasoning in American diets.

Sodium chloride, the chemical term for salt, is an important substance that our bodies need. But too much salt can put our health at risk. “Salt-savvy” consumers should be aware of some common beliefs about sodium that can stand in the way of a healthy diet:

Myth #1: Since our bodies need sodium, we should be sure to salt our food.

Fact: We do need to consume some salt, but for most of us the salt that naturally occurs in food is all we need. Unless we are exercising heavily in a warm climate, the chances are good that we don’t need to add extra. For our ancestors, salt was often in short supply, so our species developed a craving for it. However, for modern humans, finding salt is no longer the problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nine out of 10 Americans consume more than the recommended amount.

Myth #2: Increased blood pressure is the only negative health effect of salt.

Fact: High blood pressure (hypertension) is the condition we hear most about when it comes to controlling our salt intake, but it is important to see the bigger picture. High blood pressure contributes to heart and kidney disease, puts us at greater risk for stroke, and is linked with vision loss and some cancers. People with diabetes should also monitor salt consumption.

Myth #3: As long as I don’t salt my food, my sodium intake should be okay.

Fact: The salt shaker is just the beginning of the story when it comes to excess sodium. The CDC reports that 65 percent of the salt we consume comes not from the shaker, but from processed foods. Salt is an inexpensive seasoning, used by food manufactures and restaurants to improve flavor and preserve foods. You might think of salted pretzels or potato chips as being the main culprits, but that’s just the start. Almost all prepackaged meals, frozen dinners, canned soups and sauces contain a generous amount. Deli meats and even fresh chicken can have added salt.  Foods don’t even have to taste salty to contain an unhealthy level of sodium. So it’s important to read food labels. Fortunately, more and more food manufacturers are offering low-sodium varieties.

Myth #4: Food just doesn’t taste good without salt.

Fact: People whose palates are adjusted to high sodium content in foods often believe food must be salted to be flavorful. However, many other seasonings enhance flavor. Substitute spices and herbs for the salt in recipes. Try lemon juice on fish and vegetables. Shake on a salt-free seasoning combination. The American Heart Association says, “At first, you may miss the taste of salt. Gradually, however, you will start to taste more of the natural flavors of foods.” People who have been on a low-sodium diet for a period of time often find that processed foods they once liked now taste “too salty.”

Myth #5: Gourmet salts, such as sea salt, are less harmful.

Fact: Pushing our shopping cart through the seasonings aisle of the grocery store, we see more and more pretty (and pricey) bottles of “artisan” salts. Gray sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, fleur de sel, smoked salt, and Hawaiian salt are just a few of these. Some companies make health claims for these specialty salts, asserting that they are purer or that they contain other healthful minerals. The truth is, though the taste and aesthetic appearance may be different, our blood pressure can’t tell the difference. The same holds true for seasoned salts, like onion salt or celery salt.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise

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