Type “is salt bad for you?” in to a search engine and you will receive around 23 million results. Most of the pages begin by stating that salt raises blood pressure, increases risk of heart disease and then often mention several correlations to chronic ailments such as diabetes and cancer. It’s pretty scary stuff.
Labels on “healthy option” food produce now often advertise a reduced-salt or low-salt content and we often associate unhealthy, indulgent sweets and snacks with a higher salt content (think; peanuts, crisps and Cocoa Cola).
However, like so many subjects in nutrition and human health, the truth is not quite that simple…
Why do we believe this myth?
Like so many dietary myths that have stuck around for decades, there is a large body of research that supports the dangers of salt to our health. For salt in particular (even more so than low-fat diets LINK) the evidence is extremely compelling (but has been taken far out of context).
- Research shows clearly that high dietary salt intake is one of the leading contributors to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for the third leading cause of death in the UK, stroke.
- Raised blood pressure is also a leading cause of coronary heart disease, the UK’s single biggest cause of death, and government funding is set in place to inform the public that salt intake is a causative factor.
- There is also correlative data (although obscure) between salt intake and chronic ailments such as diabetes and obesity. The correlation in this case is that salty foods make us thirsty and therefore increase our intake of sugar from high-calorie drinks that are linked to weight gain and obesity. A suspicious correlation, I’m sure you’ll agree, but one listed on government platforms and informative material!
Most of the above is absolutely true. There is definitely a link between a high salt intake and adverse health effects. Consuming too much salt, especially from inherently unhealthy foods, can be extremely damaging. However, the confusion lies in the details…
- The amount of salt is the primary issue, not salt in general. Salt is vital and without it you will become quite unwell.
- The type of salt is far more relevant that the amount.
Like calories and carbohydrates, not all salt is created equal. The type to avoid is white table salt, simple sodium chloride. This stuff has no nutritional value, is highly damaging to our health and should best be considered a poison.
Salt (real salt) is absolutely essential to your health and your digestion. The salt you consume should have a colour. Salt can be pink, blue, grey and brown. The colour of salt is a sign of mineral content and the amount you consume must always be considered. You need around 6g of salt each day for health. For those on a high protein diet, who exercise frequently and therefore sweat regularly, higher intakes are often recommended. If your nutrition is great and you are eating primarily natural, whole foods, this means adding salt to your food! Do not avoid it.
Thank you for reading.
Low-Fat Diets, Good or Bad? LINK