Is Salt Really Bad For You?
We have always been warned about the dangers of consuming excess of salt. This is because high salt intake is known to cause numerous health problems and some of them are high blood pressure and heart disease.
However, you will be surprised to know that decades of research have failed to prove that consumption of too much of salt is linked to various diseases. Many studies actually show that eating very little salt can be harmful.
Salt-what is it?
Salt is sodium chloride and is sodium 40% and chloride 60% by weight. Salt is the largest dietary source of sodium. Some salt varieties have trace amounts of minerals like calcium, potassium, zinc and iron. Most often table salt is iodized. The essential minerals in salt take part in many bodily functions.
There are many types of salt, the main ones are plain table salt, sea salt, Himalayan pink salt. If you are wondering which one is healthier, the truth is that they are almost the same! Salt enhances the flavour of food and makes it palatable.
Salt and heart health
For decades we have been told to cut back on our sodium intake. It is said that we should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. That is equal to 1 teaspoon or 6 g of salt. However, most of us consume more than that. Eating too much of it raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, there exist serious doubts about the actual benefits of restricting sodium.
People who have salt-sensitive hypertension can be benefitted by reducing salt intake as it can lower their blood pressure. But in healthy people the reduction in blood pressure is quite subtle.
Review studies have not been able to find any evidence stating that reduced salt intake reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes and death.
How low salt intake is harmful?
Certain evidence suggests that a low salt diet can be harmful for health. The negative effects are:
- Rise in LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Heart disease – Many studies have reported that less than 3000 mg of sodium in a day is linked to rise in death from heart disease.
- Heart failure- In one analysis it was found that restricting the intake of salt increased the risk of death due to heart failure. People who reduced their salt intake had a 160% higher risk of death.
- Insulin resistance may increase when people are on a low-salt diet.
- One study found that less consumption of sodium in type 2 diabetes patients was associated with an increased risk of death.
High salt intake and stomach cancer link
It has been found that individuals who consume excess of salt have a flat 68% higher chance of getting stomach cancer. Several theories exist but exactly why or how it happens is unknown. Moreover the studies that were carried out were just observational. They cannot prove that too much of salt causes stomach cancer; they just say that the two are closely linked.
Foods high in salt
High amount of salt usually comes from processed food, packaged food or restaurant food. You know the common culprits such as processed meat, instant soups, pickled foods and the like. Surprisingly, even bread, cottage cheese and certain breakfast cereals can contain salt. Try reading labels to check out the sodium content of foods.
Should you be consuming less of salt?
If your doctor says that you should limit your salt intake due a health condition, you should follow his advice. However, for someone who eats whole foods, there is no need to worry about the salt intake.
While too much of it can be harmful, consuming too little of it can be equally bad.
Hope this post was informative!
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