Is there any more confusing mineral on the planet than salt? For most of us, it’s a mineral we crave. Buttered popcorn, potato chips, and processed nuts are all known to have high levels of salt in them, but they are also the snacks we are most likely to reach for out of convenience and flavor.
Most of us are also aware that salt isn’t supposed to be very good for us, yet we are often told that our bodies need it. If you’re struggling to understand your body’s strange relationship with salt, know that you aren’t alone. In this article, we will do our best to help you better understand the truth about your diet, your cravings and everything that tastes salty.
If Everything in Your Diet Tastes Salty, You Might Be In Trouble.
According to the Center for Disease Control, eating foods that are high in salt can put you at risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, or even having a stroke.
Some of us crave salty food in higher quantities than others. If you find that you are reaching for salty foods often, you should start immediately keeping track of your sodium intake to ensure that you are not over-indulging.
What to Know About Salty Foods
If you are unsure whether or not you are eating a healthy amount of salt, online sources can be very confusing. Some will say that salt is good for you, while others will say you should try to cut out sodium entirely. Below, we will outline some simple facts about salt that might help you make better sense of the situation.
You Should Consume Less than a Teaspoon a Day.
The dietary guidelines of the USDA state that you should not consume more than 1 teaspoon of salt per day. For children and individuals who already suffer with high blood pressure or heart disease, the amount is even less.
Sodium Has Health Benefits.
There are health benefits of salt. The average person needs about 200 mg of salt every day to stay healthy. The most important health benefit of salt is that it helps your body manage electrolytes and stay hydrated throughout the day.
Consuming an adequate amount of salt ensures that your body is taking in the liquid it needs and moving it throughout your body in appropriate ways.
Most People Consume Way More Salt than They Should.
Most people eat at least twice the recommended daily sodium that they should. The amount of salt we eat has been steadily on the rise throughout the last couple of generations, mostly due to new packaging guidelines on processed foods and a turn toward restaurant eating in lieu of home cooked meals.
Most Table Salt is not Pure Salt.
Most of the salts you buy at the grocery store have additives in them. This includes “pure” or “unprocessed” varieties like sea salt and pink Himalayan rock salt. These additives are an added health risk.
Kosher salt is the one exception. Usually, it is processed without additives, but checking the nutrition facts is always recommended, just in case.
Most Salt Intake Comes from Restaurants.
Restaurants use a lot of salt. When preparing large batches of food, salt helps the food taste fresher longer. It also makes people thirstier, meaning restaurants that profit from beverage sales will make more money.
It’s a good idea, when eating out, to ask for the nutrition information of any items on the menu you are interested in.
All Salt is Equally Salty.
Some salts claim to add lower levels of sodium into your body. Himalayan Salt and Sea Salt are both believed, for whatever reason, to be healthier than other salt varieties.
Truthfully, all salt Is equally salty. You will take in no less sodium from one variety than the other and you should not believe these myths.
Sodium-Free Foods Likely Still Contain Salt.
According to federal guidelines, a product only has to contain less than 5 mg of salt to label itself “sodium free” or “salt free.” This means that you are likely consuming salt even when you don’t expect it. If you are counting sodium milligrams, this is an important consideration.
Some Foods are Salty without Tasting Salty.
Not everything that is salty tastes salty. Checking the sodium on all food items is important because you don’t always taste the salt in the food that you eat. It is unwise to rely on taste buds alone to keep you safe from the dangers of high sodium.
The Salty Six- Surprising Sources of Sodium in Your Diet
The American Heart Association recently released a list of some of the saltiest foods that we consume in our regular diets. Some of the items on the list will likely surprise you.
As we have already mentioned, not everything tastes salty that has a high sodium level. There are a number of foods that you would not expect to be high in salt that, in fact, are.
We like to use seasoning when we cook. It’s human nature to want to play with things that will\ spice up our dinner and make our recipes even better. The trouble with seasonings, though, is that they are often blended with salt.
Dry rubs, lemon pepper blends, and even meatloaf or chili packets from the store will all contain more salt in them than you expect. Make sure you are reading the contents carefully.
Bread is one food that sodium likes to hide in. While bread doesn’t always taste salty, there is often salt included in the baking ingredients.
Certain bread types can contain up to 500 milligrams of salt. Even whole grain breads can have more salt in them than you’d ever imagine. Make sure you are reading the ingredients and nutrition facts carefully on store bought bread. Otherwise, baking your own is always a viable option.
Take a good look at the nutrition facts on your store-bought chicken, especially chicken breasts. You’d probably not to expect to find that there are other ingredients added to the packaging, but with many brands, you’d be wrong.
A lot of chicken processing facilities will inject a salt mixture into the meat to add flavor and keep it looking and tasting fresher longer. Chicken breasts are especially notorious for this as they are thicker pieces of meat that tend to break down much faster without preservatives.
Pizza & Pasta
Tomato sauces, like those you’d find on pizza or in your favorite pasta dishes, are often packed with sodium. Because tomato is actually a fruit, it tends to cook out into a sweeter tasting substance. To give it the savory and robust flavoring that is required of sauces, salt is added in often large quantities.
Canned soups are especially salt-heavy. Salt is a common preservative and many soup companies use salt to keep their soups lasting longer in the can than others.
If you like soup and regularly eat it, you might try making and freezing bags of homemade soup varieties instead of turning to canned soups. This will give you more control over the amount of sodium that is being used in the recipe and you won’t be sacrificing an otherwise comforting and healthy part of your regular diet.
Lunch meat is the primary source of sodium in most peoples’ diets. Again, this is due to the need most food processing companies have for preservation.
You can help eliminate this by cooking your own lunch meat at home. It won’t last as long, but it will contain less salt and taste just as good. Just prepare small amounts once or twice a week.
Remember- All Things in Moderation!
Obviously, you’ll never be able to cut all salt from your diet. It is too versatile of a mineral and is in too many of the things we regularly eat. A good rule of thumb is simply to remember that you have to consume all things in moderation. If you practice healthy eating habits in terms of serving sizes your salt intake will naturally decrease, as well.