Chances are, you’ve heard the phrase “salt is bad for your heart” or something to that effect at some point in your life. Salt (or sodium) has been blamed as the true cause of heart disease and other serious ailments since 1977, when the US government changed their dietary guidelines to limit salt intake. But the truth is, these guidelines were based on weak evidence that never really showed that increase of dietary salt lead to higher risk of heart attack, high blood pressure or kidney disease. In fact, chronically lowering your sodium intake too much can actually be the cause of most of these diseases.
As a country, we have been under consuming salt for decades, and it’s a highly debated topic among doctors, researchers and dietitians alike. Most studies done on the effects of sodium have lots of other contributing factors that aren’t taken into account with the results. So professionals rely on what they’ve been taught; that too much salt is bad for you. But the real fact is that our bodies want, need, and can handle so much more salt intake than we realize. The top three countries for lowest death rates due to coronary heart disease are Japan, France and South Korea. All of these country’s populations consume a very high salt diet, by American standards. And I don’t mean they’re shaking salt over everything they eat, but their diets are rich in higher sodium foods (think seafood and seaweed, kimchi, soy sauce, olives, capers, aged cheeses, etc). All of these countries, plus several others who fill out the top 20 list, have the lowest rates of heart disease, hypertension, stroke and high blood pressure in the world.
There’s so much to consider when it comes to your salt intake and how much you should really be getting. One little trick is that your taste buds will react more to something that’s salty when you are sodium deficient. Sodium is an essential mineral, so one way of enhancing our abilities to find salty foods in the wild was to make our taste buds moresensitive when we’re low. So salty food will taste better to you when your intake has been too low, thus getting you to eat more. Inverse, when you’ve had enough salt, salty foods can repulse you so you stop eating. And don’t worry about consuming too much, your kidneys were also designed to not absorb more than your body needs. Too much salt will just come right out. Please note though, if your doctor has specifically prescribed for you to limit your salt intake, you will need to talk to them before adjusting your diet in any way.
I learned all of the is information from the book The Salt Fix by Dr. James Dinicolantonio. It goes in to so much more detail than I could ever comprehend and really gets into the reasons why we need more salt in our diets. I highly recommend it.
Consult your doctor before making any dietary adjustments or if taking any medications.
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