The Salty Truth

Let’s Start with the Facts:  Salt is Important.

Salt has gotten a bit of a bad rap.  Just as we understand the dangers of consuming too much salt, we also must understand that salt is important.  Too little salt may be harmful.  Salt, or sodium chloride, is beneficial to your health.  Amongst other things, it helps your nerves function properly, your muscles contract and contributes to fluid balance, electrolyte balance and pH balance.

So Then Why the Fuss?

Salt and sodium are related, but are not the same.  Salt is made up of sodium (40%) plus chloride (60%).  Both are minerals.  It is over consumption of that 40% of sodium that is behind the warnings of medical professionals.  While sodium in moderation is good for our health, excess sodium can increase blood pressure (because it holds excess fluid in the body) and has been linked to conditions such as stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and kidney disease.

Is a Salt Just a Salt?

While the composition of all salt types is generally the same, the overall mineral content of all the salts (table, sea and Kosher) can vary.  Our soup recipes at Soupure call for sea salt. We use it sparingly to get the benefits, without the additional burdens, of moderate salt consumption.   Sea salt has crystals larger in size than table salt, and is produced through the evaporation of ocean water or saltwater lakes.  Sea salt has usually been processed minimally.   As a result, it contains more trace minerals like potassium, iron, and zinc which help strengthen and protect the nervous system, heart, bones and teeth and it helps balance the pH levels in the body. Table salt, on the other hand, is mined from underground salt deposits.  Most table salt has an essential nutrient, iodine, added to help maintain a healthy thyroid. Many people say table salt has a more metallic taste than Kosher or sea salt, possibly because of the iodine.  It is also heavily processed to eliminate minerals and usually contains an anti-caking agent to prevent clumping.   As a result, it can be more difficult than sea salt for the body to assimilate.  Kosher salt, whose crystals are generally the largest of the salts, is derived from either seawater or underground sources.  It typically contains no additives. It gets its name not because it is a kosher food but because of its use in making meats kosher, by helping extract the blood from the meat.

How Much is Enough?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a daily maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium for those without hypertension risk factors (1,500 mg for those 51 or older, African Americans, or people with high blood pressure, diabetics or chronic kidney disease).  That is equivalent to about 1 teaspoon of salt! The American Heart Association recommends a daily maximum of 1,500 mg for all.  Americans eat on average about 3,300 mg of sodium a day.

Start the Salt Shake Down!

Follow these 5 easy tips to start your salt shake down!  You might find your “taste”  for salt gradually decreases or even disappears!

  1. Quite surprisingly, the biggest culprit to our sodium overload it not the salt shaker, it is all the processed store-bought foods and restaurant foods we eat.  Thus, you should always read the ingredient list and speak up at restaurants to identify and reduce sources of sodium in your food.  Pay particular attention to serving sizes on labels (many products contain more than one) and to words like “soda” (refers to sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, another form of sodium) and “sodium” (which includes sodium nitrate, sodium citrate, monosodium glutamate [MSG] and sodium benzoate).  Ask your meal preparer to prepare your meal without salt or ask that the sauces and dressings be served “on the side”
  2. Keep your sodium intake between 1,500 and 2,300 mg of sodium a day (if you’re a healthy adult).
  3. Get fresh food when you can (like our soups) and/or prepare your own food (adding herbs and spices and least possible (but highest quality) salt).
  4. Buy fresh, frozen or low sodium or no salt added canned vegetables.  If you use sodium-containing canned foods, make sure and rinse before using.
  5. Choose low or no sodium snacks (like nuts and seeds in place of chips and pretzels) and dairy products (like fat-free or low fat milk products in place of whole or processed cheese and dairy products) and consider your condiments (like lite soy sauce or oil and vinegar in your salads rather than potentially sodium filled bottled dressings).

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