Salt: Safe or Toxic

The 2017 dietary guidelines for Americans suggests a maximum daily sodium intake of 2300 milligrams which is about 1 teaspoon full of salt daily.. Persons 51 years of age or older, blacks, diabetics, those with chronic kidney disorders and or high blood pressure should limit their sodium intake to 1500 milligrams daily. Knowing that the average American’s daily intake of sodium is 1 1/2 teaspoons or 3400 milligrams, according to the Centers For Disease Control makes it easy to understand why it is so hard to properly control the intake of sodium on a daily schedule.

Sodium is a major ingredient in processed and prepackaged foods. Fast foods and restaurant dining provides a high source of sodium intake. Most hamburger and french fry combinations alone contain at least 1500 milligrams of sodium and that is just one meal. Canned soups, bouillons, broths, salad dressings, canned tomato products, nuts, pretzels, chips and crackers are all high sodium deliverers. Lunch meats, canned meats, wieners, bacon and ham contain high sodium levels. Pickles and pickled foods including sauerkraut are high sodium sources, Even canned vegetables contain significantly high sodium levels. Soy Sauce, Worcestershire and other sauces are full of salt. Check labels and learn to substitute  items like garlic powder for garlic salt. Avoid seasoned salts and watch lemon pepper as number 1 or 2 ingredient may be sodium. Sodium free Mrs. Dash is a good salt substitute.

Before buying food: cheese, frozen food and dinners, pot pies, frozen or shelf stored entrees, biscuits, baking mixes, any packaged edible in other words all foods and beverages read the sodium content per serving. Now read the number of suggested servings in the item. Let’s say there are three suggested servings in the item and 280 milligrams of sodium per serving, the package you are holding contains 840 milligrams of sodium. Knowing that you may wish to start seeking low sodium and sodium free selections. Learning to read the percent values on labels is a necessity. Low sodium foods will contain 5% or less sodium per serving. High sodium content is 30% and above per serving. Learning to interpret ingredient lists is also important. Ingredients are listed by weight. A potato chip label that reads: potato, salt, water has salt as its second prevalent component. When salt is at the top of the ingredient list that food should be avoided as a staple item and used only occasionally.

At my home we do not keep salt anymore. A few days spent reading labels and we realized that we were way over the limit without any additional salt being added. We have found that salt is an acquired taste. We thought it would be a hard transition to go low salt but it really wasn’t. We rinse most canned vegetables before using and flavor with a small amount of unsalted butter, herbs and spices including black pepper.  Using fresh vegetables in season is the preferred choice. There are a few foods that took a while to appreciate when eating unsalted,  with tomatoes, eggs and popcorn being the hardest to conquer for us and that was when we learned to appreciate Mrs. Dash. Not all salt-free salt substitutes are healthy choices. Many are high in potassium and although potassium is an essential nutrient, too much can cause major medical health issues.

The adult male in my daughter’s home is a  forty plus year old Jamaican. His blood pressure was running 280/140. Now after a change in salt intake it runs 180/110. He still requires medication for high blood pressure but much less than what was required. His recorded heart blood flow was only 32% and has increased to 78% and climbing. In this regard salt intake in our homes has saved a life. He has not been seen in the E.R. or hospitalized  due to heart or blood pressure difficulties in years where once he was a frequent resident there.

My personal blood pressure ran 160/90 and now is down in the 120/65 range. I have no need for blood pressure medication now. My fluid reducing pill Lasix was a daily necessity and now it is a rare occurrence to  need it all. Too much sodium is very harmful and can prove fatal. Humans need sodium. It is vital for proper heart function and other health functions. Worrying about salt intake being too low is relatively needless in today’s society. In our present pre-packaged-fast food environment salt is abundant.

Many people today use sea salt and believe it is better from a health perspective. Sea salt is still salt. If it is your preference use it, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that it is not salt at all. Salt mined from the earth and refined undergoes different methods of refinement than salt taken from ocean water and depths. Sea salt therefore may contain more minerals than those lost in the land salt processing.

Taking the time to analyze your personal salt intake and that of those eating at your table will enlighten you to the amount of salt being consumed. Hopefully we will all be shook up sufficiently by the results and put that salt shaker down.

Works Cited:

Click to access sodium_dietary_guidelines.pdf