Monday, May 3, 2010

The "Shake" on Salt

It's been all over the news lately, salt is quickly becoming the new trans fat and high fructose corn syrup. On April 20, 2010 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a statement asking the FDA to regulate the amount of sodium (salt) allowed in foods.  The organization sites that a reduction in sodium intake may prevent 100,000 deaths per year from conditions related to high blood pressure, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and heart failure.

The recommended maximum intake level for sodium is 2,400 mg, (about 1 teaspoon) per day.  The average American gets AT LEAST 3,400 mg, (about 1.5 teaspoons) per day.  This salt is coming not only from the shaker on the table, but it's also in everything from cereal to some spices.  Check out this slide show from WebMD for a quick lesson on sodium and where it hides and here's a look at the salt content in fast food.  Sodium also occurs naturally, in small amounts, in fruits, vegetables and meats and... it is essential to life!  But, more is not always better!

Besides it's effects on blood pressure, salt also contributes to a net acid load in the body, as do grains, dairy and meats.  The body needs to maintain an alkaline (base) environment and must buffer the acid from the chloride portion of salt.  This can be accomplished by eating lots of fruits and vegetables and with calcium, magnesium, and potassium stored in the body, if fruit and vegetable intake is inadequate.  Acid-base imbalances lead to the development of osteoporosis (due to calcium being stolen from bones to buffer the acid load), high-blood pressure, stroke, kidney stones, asthma, stomach cancer, insomnia and motion sickness.

I often see and work with people that believe they are eating 'Paleo' or 'Clean' but use and eat generous amounts of sea salt, soy sauce, deli meats, canned tomatoes, salted nuts, etc...  There are lots of salt free flavoring options out there too.  Try lemon or lime juice, fresh or dried herbs, coconut oil, olive oil, or just enjoy the food you are eating for its natural flavor - you might be suprised at how good it is!

Are you going to rethink your 'salty' habits or just take this with a 'grain of salt'???

Comments...

5 comments:

  1. http://www.nasw.org/awards/1999/99Taubesarticle1.htm

    Does salt really affect high blood pressure?

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  2. While I agree that sodium from processed founds should definitely be avoided (by, ahem, just avoiding processed foods) the salt issue if far more political than one realizes. In fact, it may even trump the dogma of cholesterol.

    The insulin-->aldosterone connection is far, far more relevant to hypertension than sodium (even though sodium IS a player in that system); researchers, politicians, and unfortunately, conventional medicine practitioners, are insanely myopic when it comes to these issues.

    As a side note, the addition of sodium would decrease the overall PRAL, therefore add to alkanization, would it not?

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  3. David and Mike - I agree that the link is questionable as a generalization, but there are some individuals that are salt sensitive. Also, some salt is not bad, but as in all things we seem to be a nation addicted to excess!
    I completely agree with the 'avoid processed foods' recommendation and am not sold on the whole high salt = high blood pressure arguement. I actually did my undergraduate senior thesis on the topic.

    And to address the PRAL issue - the sodium is alkaline - it's the chloride portion that contributes to the acid load.

    Read Dr. Cordain's take on salt intake in The Paleo Diet for more information.

    Thanks for the comments-
    -Amy

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  4. Amy,

    Thanks for the clarification (should have been a slap to the forehead) on the sodium vs NaCl. Back to basic chem for me! :)

    I don't know if you'd be willing, but I'd love to read your thesis on hypertension.

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  5. I would question the FDA. We don't believe their nutritional pyramid and eating healthy whole grains to lower cholesterol ect... why this?

    I'm just opening a bag of worms.

    P.S. I love your blog, Amy!

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