Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Salt: Friend or Foe?

My family has been following a low sodium diet for about 2 years now, due to some high blood pressure problems. Plus, it seems to be all over the news about how we need very little salt in our diets, blah blah blah. My hubby and I have learned to re-cook just about everything. It hasn't been easy, or in the beginning tasty. I have had to spend numerous hours in the grocery stores looking at nutritional labels for absolutely everything I buy. (Don't even get me started on all that cholesterol stuff! mono, poly, saturated, I know it all. Ugh.)
I had been having some problems in the last few months with the all mighty leg cramps, when my mother brought to my attention that I had this problem many many moons ago when I didn't have enough salt in my diet. I had forgotten about that, and took it into consideration, then forgot all about it. I don't know how you can forget something like that, when your legs are seizing, but I did.
Not too long ago Mom and I made a trip to the health food store to pick up a few things (One being herbs to help the leg cramps..this was way before my ear reflexology therapy, I'm just slow at pumping out blogs sometimes) and on our way out we got our freebie "Better Nutrition" magazine. Right there on the first page is an article about Salt. Friend or Foe. I had to read it about 40 times, then had to kick myself in the ass for believing yet again, Doctors (who are only out there to make money off your phobias) the media, who aren't any better, and of course food producers, who charge you up the ass for the lower sodium versions of their products, that really aren't any healthier for you, if you look at the labels. And processed foods..they shouldn't even be legal! Ahem.
Instead of me trying to rehash the whole article in my own words, I'm just going to reprint it here, because it's worth seeing the whole thing if your concerned about your sodium intake.

  • SALT: FRIEND OR FOE by Vera Tweed
    Eating too much salt raises blood pressure, increases risk for heart disease, and ultimately shortens life, right?
    Not exactly. While excess salt may raise blood pressure, some research shows that people who eat more salt live longer.
    In a recent study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, researches at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Bronx N.Y., studied the impact of various amounts of salt in the diets of 8,700 adults over the age of 30. Researchers found that people who ate the least amount of sodium (less than 2,060 mg daily) were 80% more likely to die from heart disease than those who consumed the most (4,048 to 9,946 mg daily).
    "Our findings suggest that for the general adult population, higher sodium is very unlikely to be independently associated with higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease or all other causes of death," says Hillel Cohen, DrPH, lead author of the study. Cohen does not advocate increasing salt intake as a health promoting strategy, but at the same time, he sees no reason for healthy people with normal blood pressure to cut back on salt.
    But because of the chemicals and additives used in table salt's refining process, may health experts agree that unrefined salt, such as sea salt, may might be a better choice. "When people use unrefined salt, there is no increase in blood pressure," notes David Brownstein, MD author of Salt Your Way to Health. "Refined salt has only 2% mineral content, whereas unrefined has 80-plus different kinds of minerals." If you do decide to use only unrefined salt, use an iodine supplement; table salt is a leading source of iodine which helps prevent goiter.
    How much salt is right for you? Factually, no one knows. The U.S. government estimates that adults need at least 500 mg daily and recommends no more than 2,400 mg per day. On average, Americans consume 3,000 to 4,000 mg daily. However, individual needs vary, and salt affects blood pressure to different degrees in different people.

  • Avoiding Pitfalls:
    Processed foods, not saltshakers, account for three-quarters of the sodium in American diets. A wholesome diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish, nuts, and uncured meat promotes health...and also happens to be relatively low in sodium.
    Correctly or not, salt has been targeted as unhealthful, and consumer demand has encouraged manufacturers of processed foods to invent lower sodium products, such as potato chips. The health impact of these foods depend on what you do with them, of course. If certain potato chips contain less salt, will you eat more of them?

  • Sodium Facts:
    Sodium is an essential nutrient for balancing fluids in our bodies, transmitting nerve impulses, and enabling muscles to contract and relax. Symptoms of sodium depletion as a result of physical activity in a hot environment include sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and muscle cramps.
    The End

So what do you think? I'd like to hear your opinions on this article. Is salt friend or foe? Is sodium as big an issue in other countries as it is here in America?

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