You’re at a family gathering and it’s finally time to eat! Everyone finds their seat, and before you know it your uncle asks you an all-too-familiar request,
“Pass the salt, please.”
A common phrase that might seem harmless, but those little white grains affect us in more ways than simply enhancing the flavor of a meal.
The average American eats about 2,900 to 3,400 mg of sodium per day (1). That’s about 6 to 10 grams of salt, which is nearly twice the amount you should be eating! Most adults aim to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
Organizations around the world come together in March to raise awareness of the health dangers of too much salt. This year, the theme is “Shake the Habit!” (9).
In this article, we’re going to look at salt from a variety of angles. Hopefully, this will give you better tools to take your health back into your hands.
Different Kinds of Salt
When you think of salt, most would think of the white grains that sit in their designated shakers. While salt is pretty consistent in terms of look, taste and feel, there are actually 12 different types of salt (12):
- Himalayan pink/black salt
- Table salt (also known as ionized salt)
- Kosher salt
- Epsom salt
- Sea salt/Celtic gray sea salt
- Flake salt
- Black/Red Hawaiian salt
- Smoked salt
- Pickling salt
Depending on how you plan to use it, there are many options when it comes to salt.
The salt you see on your table is actually only 40% sodium. The other 60% is chloride (2), and your body depends on salt in small amounts.
It’s helpful when it comes to conducting nerve impulses, relaxing muscles, and keeping water and mineral levels balanced (2).
Salt gets a bad rap, but it does come with some perks. It’s been used for centuries as a preservative, as currency (11), and to flavor food.
In addition to its cooking uses, salt can also be used to (3):
- Remove wine stains from carpet
- Take the bitterness out of coffee
- Prevent cheese from molding
- Chill drinks quickly
- Sanitize your cutting boards
- Relieve bee stings
- Soothe sore throats
- Put out grease fires
- Deodorize shoes
- Bring your lawn back to life
- Keep fleas off your pet
- Protect your garden plants
- Melting snow and ice from roads
These are just some of the many uses salt has. Who knew it could be so diverse?
While salt does provide important nutrients your body needs, too much sodium in your body can cause problems. Diets high in sodium have been linked to different health concerns (4).
Over time, your kidneys have a hard time keeping up with all the excess sodium in your body. To help combat the sodium buildup, you begin to hang onto more water. This results in issues like:
- Hypertension: High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when the force of your blood on your artery walls is too high. Because salt can make your body hold more water, this can increase the volume of liquid in your arteries. Research finds there is a strong connection between salt intake and hypertension (6)
- Cardiovascular disease: Heart disease is one of the most common causes of death. There have been discussions on whether salt plays a role, and a recent study confirms that those who have high salt intakes were more at risk for developing heart disease (7).
- Stroke: When a part of your blood vessel becomes blocked, blood is unable to get through. Tissue on the receiving end don’t get the oxygen it needs and begins to die. This is called a stroke. Studies show that those with chronic high blood pressure are more at risk for a stroke (8).
How do you avoid these life-threatening health conditions? Your best bet is to reduce your salt intake.
Foods to Avoid
Part of limiting your salt means having a plan. That plan might include cutting out certain foods.
Foods that are often high in sodium are (5):
- Ham, bacon, lunch meats, sausages and hot dogs
- Frozen dinners like burritos or pizza
- Canned entrees like spam, chili or ravioli
- Fish that’s pre-breaded, pre-fried, or smoked, or canned
- Salted snacks
- Certain cheeses or buttermilk
- Meat tenderizers, some seasonings
- Condiments like mayonnaise, ketchup, and some salad dressings
It might seem challenging to avoid these foods at first, but making even small steps can go a long way in improving your health.
Salt is hard to forego at times, but for the sake of your health it’s always worth the effort. There are a number of things you can do to reduce your salt intake, both personally and communally.
As far as food goes, here are some ways to make positive changes:
- Choose more fresh foods
- Ditch the extra salt on homemade dishes
- Use herbs or spices to flavor your food
- When buying packaged foods, check the label and opt for those with less or no salt
- Limit salty snacks like chips or pretzels
- When eating out, ask for your dish to be prepared with minimal or no salt
- Choose low sodium broths
- Go for unsalted nuts and seeds
- Rinse canned vegetables under some water before you use them
There are creative ways to share the stats on salt as well (9), such as:
- Passing out fact sheets about the dangers of too much salt
- Hosting a local event and inviting a guest speaker
- Holding a lunch that is low sodium, celebrating healthy food choices while discussing the negative effects of high salt intakes.
Salt has been used for thousands of years. This mineral has been harvested and used to preserve, clean, enhance foods, and bring wealth.
Salt takes on many forms, but the chemical makeup remains the same. In small amounts, salt is greatly beneficial to your body. But today’s convenience foods make it easy for people to consume too much salt.
The results are alarming. Exhausted kidneys lead to fluid retention, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It’s critical that we take action to lower the amount of salt we take in, for the sake of our health.
Thankfully, there are healthy and delicious alternatives. Asking for less salt during meals, replacing salts with herbs and spices, and choosing more fresh food can help your body stay balanced.
Happy Salt Awareness week! What are some things you plan to change, now that you know more about salt? Drop us an email, we’d love to hear from you!
References & Disclaimers
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author