The longstanding salt debate was recently dissected in the Washington Post. The author left no stone unturned while rehashing the history of the classic controversy over salt being good or bad.
The article chronicles perfectly the current evidence suggesting that low sodium guidelines may have been too strict. The problem is that government agencies that have the ability to adjust sodium guidelines seem to be sticking their heads in the sand.
What was truly impressive was that the author was able to tell both sides of the debate in an unbiased way while including sound reasons that the sodium guidelines should be adjusted:
- The research suggesting that salt raises blood pressure and stresses the cardiovascular system is questionable at best.
- There is a body of valid/reliable evidence suggesting that keeping sodium levels ultra low for long duration could be harmful.
- Valid and reliable research has shown that slashing sodium intake fails to improve blood pressure values with any significance.
- Experts on the pro salt side point to evidence that the safe/appropriate levels of sodium per day are potentially double the recommended limit.
That's enough for me to responsibly enjoy salting my food to make it taste better but there are two important points that were overlooked.
1. Throughout all of the salt research, the author doesn't account for the fact that there are different types of salt. To think there is no difference between naturally occurring food salt, iodized/processed table salt, pink Himalayan salt and sea salt is a blaring omission. It's unlikely that people who are "taking in excessive" levels of sodium are taking it in from the minimally processed, vitamin/mineral packed Himalayan or sea salt. It's important to recognize that not all salt is the same.
2. At no point in this article was there mention of the fact that salt has been unjustly convicted. The majority of sodium consumed is through highly processed, low nutrient junk or fast foods. Many of these are high in sodium according to the intake guidelines but they also come with other toxic agents.
These processed food-like substances are jammed with high amounts of hydrogenated fats, inflammatory oils, refined sugars, and other ingredients that come out of a lab. Each of those toxic agents have shown up as culprits of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure disturbances and many other health maladies. These snakes in the weeds are getting off without any suspicion of the crimes they are committing because salt is such an easy target.
Be afraid of hydrogenated fats, inflammatory oils and refined sugars/sweeteners. They are the silent killers. Responsible consumption of high quality salts to make food tastier and help your body function better is not to blame.
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Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS is the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and Founder of TD Athletes Edge, where he provides fitness, recovery and nutrition guidance to aspiring and professional athletes. For training advice, visit www.tdathletesedge.com and follow him on Twitter/Instagram through @tdathletesedge.
Kresser, C. (2012, April 20). Shaking up the Salt Myth: The Dangers of Salt Restriction. Retrieved April 9, 2015, from http://chriskresser.com/shaking-up-the-salt-myth-the-dangers-of-salt-restriction