Recently there’s been a lot of buzz around salt since the FDA started suggesting that Americans start cutting back on sodium in our diets (1). So does salt really deserve it’s bad rap, and should we be eating it at all? Does salt fit in with the Nutrition Stripped lifestyle? Today I’m breaking down what salt does for our bodies and how much you should really be eating. Read more to find out!
What’s the deal with salt?
First let’s break down the kinds of salt. Most people are familiar with salt as a seasoning, but there are two different kinds – table salt and sea salt. The main differences between the two are their texture, how they’re processed, their mineral content and characteristics. Sea salt is produced from natural action of evaporation from the ocean water (i.e. sea salt water), which contains trace minerals and sodium from the sea. Table salt is more processed and typically minerals are added back in such as iodine which is important for a healthy thyroid but also changes the flavor and makes the texture very fine.
Personally I always use sea salt, pink Himalayan sea salt, or Celtic sea salt for flavor and mineral content purposes. If you use sea salt instead of table salt, however, you may not be getting enough iodine (read more about iodine deficiency here). You can make sure you’re getting enough iodine by adding seaweeds like nori sheets or kelp noodles to your diet or by supplementing with iodine. Try a Kale Caesar Nori Wrap, Veggie Sushi Rolls, Deconstructed Vegetable Sushi Bowl, or a Brown Rice Miso Macro Bowl.
How much salt should you be eating?
Most of the salt we eat comes from processed foods and not from adding table or sea salt to our foods. Check out this article for an infographic showing how much salt is in common foods in the Standard American Diet. If you’re eating a lot of processed or pre-packaged foods, it can be difficult to track how much sodium you’re consuming, especially because sodium is usually counted in milligrams in quantities of 1,000. Salt and sodium intake is greatly dependent on your lifestyle, health risks, current health challenges if any, exercise routine, diet, and individual reaction to sodium. If you are an athlete you may need more sodium to combat and replenish lost sodium/minerals in your sweat. On the contrary, if you have high blood pressure it’s recommended that you limit sodium since it can cause extra fluid in your body which adds pressure to the blood vessels leading to the kidneys.
What the FDA requirements/suggested intake state:
Dietary Guidelines for Americans (1) suggest limiting sodium to about:
- 2300mg/day if you are 50 or younger (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1500mg/day for people aged 51 or older (about 3/4 teaspoon)
Again, depending on your health history if you have high blood pressure or kidney issues, I always recommend the lower of the two and eat as many whole foods as possible, which naturally limits the amount of added sodium. If you are eating mostly whole foods and batch cooking in order to cook the majority of your meals at home, it’s unlikely that you’ll be consuming over a teaspoon of salt a day. If you’re eating pre-packaged snacks, just be mindful of the sodium content and try to stay in the 2300 mg range. To learn how to read a nutrition label, check out this post.
In a nutshell, don’t be afraid of consuming salt – just be mindful of the source and always try to eat whole foods as much as possible (i.e. food from nature). The Nutrition Stripped lifestyle is all about balance, so I encourage you to eat a healthy diet without getting too caught up in counting sodium intake (unless your doctor recommends it because of health concerns)!
Healthy recipes for people who love salt:
Try this: Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll probably enjoy:
- Should I take supplements?
- How to read a nutrition label
- The guide to hidden sugars
- Is alcohol unhealthy?
- Is coffee unhealthy?
Resources: (1) http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAdditivesIngredients/ucm253316.htm
Photo via Pinterest
Did you know there’s nutrition advice AND over 100 delicious whole food recipes in the #NSCookbook? Get your copy here.