J sent in a question, and while e-mail doesn’t do justice to emotions, I think she’s a little upset with me… You see, J really enjoys salty foods. Apparently she has heard over and over again, including general advice from me, that eating salty food can be bad for you. J says she is in her 40s, is very healthy, and doesn’t understand why she has to give up something she enjoys so much when she is well.
Honestly, J, I understand. I like the taste of salt, too (I could eat hard pretzels all day long!), but I am very careful about my salt intake. It’s long been recognized that eating a lot of salt predisposes to high blood pressure, but now there’s more data available that points to even greater health risks with high sodium intake.
Sodium? Where does that come into play, you might ask. Check this out:
- one teaspoon of salt (about 5 grams of salt) contains about two
and a half (2.4) grams of sodium
- general recommendations are that we should limit sodium intake
to less than 2 grams per day; however, most experts now
recommend an upper limit of about 1.5 grams per day (that would
be about 2/3 teaspoon TOTAL salt intake each day from all
By the way, 1 gram (g) = 1,000 milligrams (mg).
What’s the big deal? Well, a review just published in the prestigious BMJ (British Medical Journal) showed that most people, when taking into account all sources of salt / sodium in the diet, ingest about 2 teaspoons of salt a day (10 g of salt), or almost 5 g of sodium every day. They also showed that:
- the higher the salt intake, the higher the risk for stroke and heart disease
- cutting the average daily salt intake from 2 teaspoons to one teaspoon per day could cut the risk of stroke by 23% and the risk of heart disease by 17%
J, you might be saying, “Okay, okay – I won’t add salt to my meals any more!” And that’s good!! But it’s not enough.
Salt / sodium hides in many of the foods we buy, whether from our favorite restaurants or the goods we buy from home. Ask your waiter or waitress for low-sodium options of your favorite dishes, and be sure to read food labels to limit excessive sodium intake.
And leave the salt shaker empty to help you stay well.
Every once in a while I still enjoy a pretzel, J, but I’m mindful not to overdo it when it comes to salt and sodium. I hope you will be, too.
Some good web sites to view on this topic include:
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