Okay. Admittedly, that was a bit over-dramatic. But if we are to rely on the media, any time sodium is mentioned, it is about how bad it is! So of course, in my limited understanding, I thought abandon all salt! Eradicate it from my life – now!
Until I took a moment to learn about the areas in our world where salt is quite necessary. Salt, or sodium chloride as it is scientifically called, is used in a multitude of applications. It was used in ancient times as well as today to help preserve our food and add flavor to our otherwise bland meals, but beyond that, it is needed in many other applications: like in making toothpastes, laundry soaps and shampoo, glass and fire extinguishers. It it needed in the process of water-softening, curing concrete, de-icing roads, in leather treatments, and in the manufacturing of bleach. (to name only a few)
So you can see where the production of salt is big business. In 2010, the world salt production was a staggering 270 million tons; 45 million tons of which were produced solely in the United States – according to Wikipedia, anyway. World-wide, we mass-produce salt from seawater, brine wells and salt lakes.
If I am to base my thoughts on the shear production demand alone, I would conclude salt has become an integral part of life here on earth, as we know it. So I don’t think we can “eradicate it” at this point. But should we control our use where we can?
YES! All things in moderation is a great piece of advice, especially when talking salt.
We here in the great Northwest do not use salt to de-ice our highways, for example. We have found that using sodium on the icy roads, causes the salty, melted run-off to enter into the local fresh water ecosystems. Salt in fresh water is no good for the plants and creatures residing there. And we love our fish, so no salt shall land in our fresh waters! That’s good! Let’s hope the manufacturing facilities of the world would consider such ecological consequences when using sodium in their productions.
What about salt and our bodies? Now here is an area where we each can have a greater control over its use. Humans do need salt for good health. Our bodies need sodium to maintain proper water balance and blood pH, as well as proper stomach, nerve and muscle function. But, a little salt goes a long way in meeting these needs – which is WAY less than what we Americans consume in our highly-over-processed-convenience-is-king lifestyle we live. The American Heart Association, (AHA) once held the standard of 2,300mg of salt a day (that’s about 1 tsp) for a healthy lifestyle. But now their recommendation has changed to only 1,500mg of salt (or approx. 2/3 of 1 tsp). Why? Because salt is associated with conditions that raise your risk for high blood pressure – which can lead to stroke, heart failure; also osteoporosis; stomach cancer; and kidney disease.
So why do we add so much of it if we know salt is bad for us? Because, according to a recent Prevention magazine article, salt can be addictive. Who knew! When we consume salt, it triggers the release of dopamine, in the pleasure centers of our brain. Because it makes us feel good, we want more of that good feeling – thank you very much! Thus making salt something we crave. Ultimately having the potential to be as addictive as nicotine or alcohol. Another reason to “just say no” to salt.
Not to worry though. This is an easier thing to control than you think. We just don’t need to worry about the salt that is organically occurring in the natural, raw foods we eat. We just need to put down the salt shaker more and avoid processed foods that add sodium to their list of ingredients! According to the AHA, 75% of our overuse of salt comes from the salt that is added to our food. So stop adding it! Wean yourself off the added sodium. With a little willpower you can kick the habit of excess salt. Within a couple weeks, according to The Mayo Clinic, your taste buds should acclimate to a less-salty world, and you will be better for it!
As far as our outer bodies are concerned, sodium (by means of sodium lauryl sulfate) is something to avoid as well. Although it is great at creating an awesome lather, it definitely is a culprit in stripping our highly treasured, and often expensive salon hair colors.
Solution: READ LABELS. Avoid products where you see the words: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in the ingredients. Find food products that have a sodium level of 140mg of sodium (this is considered ‘low sodium’) or less per serving. As I love to say so often, be an informed consumer!
After my investigation into this salty matter, I apologize for being hasty in declaring salt is from the devil. But as with so many things in this world, I learned there is a good side and a bad side to consider. So for me, I guess I will continue in my love/hate relationship with salt. But from now on, with a little more balance.
Until next time, remember to take care of you!