Many of us have heard, at some point in our lives, how bad salt is for us. But is it really? Where is most of the salt we consume coming from? How much sodium do you need in your diet? Is all salt the same? Below we will answer those questions for you.

Many of us tend to simply believe the “authorities” when they say salt is bad for us, but they tend to leave out some pretty important factors. But since they know what they’re talking about, we’ll continue to buy our processed foods, but because we’re concerned about our health and trying to impress those “authorities”, we’ll get the reduced sodium option. No salt on those super-sized fries for us, McDonalds.

Many times we forget where the majority of our salt consumption actually comes from, so we simply put down the saltshaker and enjoy our food without it. But, cutting out salt added while cooking or at the table, will not reduce the intake by much, because 75% of consumed salt derives from processed foods. We cannot stress this enough…read your food labels!

Despite the bad press, sodium is a vital nutrient. In order to maintain good health, an adequate intake of salt in the human diet is necessary. According to the Institute of Medicine, healthy adults should consume 3.8 grams of salt per day, in order to replace the amount lost through sweat and urination.

Too little sodium in our diets can actually cause harm. Restricting salt, at least for the majority of people, may cause adverse effects on health. For example, in one study, just 7 days on a low sodium diet increased insulin resistance, which is a leading cause of obesity and diabetes.¹

Here are five important facts everyone should know about salt:

  1. Salt and sodium aren’t the same thing. While the terms are often used interchangeably, many people do not realize that not only is the molecular level in salt and sodium different, but so is the impact they have on our bodies.  Sodium is important in our diets to help maintain heart, brain, and muscle function. Unlike salt found in the saltshaker or in most processed foods, sodium can be found in nutritious sources such as vegetables, fruits, and meats from pasture-raised, plant –eating animals.
  1. Simply eliminating salt won’t reduce high blood pressure. Salt is everywhere and in nearly everything we consume, especially if you’re not eating a healthy diet of whole unprocessed foods. If you look at the labels closely enough, you’ll find loads of salt in deli meats, soups, spaghetti sauce, cereals, and so much more. These processed foods are also loaded with sugar, so chances are if you’re living on a diet of this stuff, your blood pressure problems won’t be solved by watching your salt intake or switching to “low salt” versions of them. Instead, cut out processed foods all together, and you’ll be eliminating the salt and sugar that boosts blood pressure.
  1. Sodium-free or salt-free products aren’t sodium or salt free. While these items may contain less sodium or salt, thanks to our lovely federal guidelines, a product can be labeled sodium-free or salt-free if it has less than 5 mg of sodium. So again, we stress…read the labels!
  1. Salt substitutes are not a healthier option for adding flavor. It’s like a bad addiction, if you take something away, you look for a substitute, but that’s not a good thing. Most salt substitutes contain potassium chloride, too much of which can trigger severe kidney problems and can be especially dangerous for those with cardiac issues. Instead of reaching for a substitute, taste your food first! You may find adding the salt is just a habit, and your food tastes just fine. If you do find your food lacks flavor, try adding organic spices and herbs while cooking. If that doesn’t work, perhaps you’re just not that great of a cook and you should probably pass that apron to your partner…or try adding a small amount of Himalayan or unrefined sea salt to your finished dishes.
  1. Not all salts are the same. Unrefined sea salt is packed with minerals and supplies the body with a proper balance of chloride and sodium. Himalayan crystal salt is considered to be the best because it is the highest, purest grade salt on earth, and is free of impurities and pollutants, unlike some sea salt, which come from polluted waters. It is also loaded with more than 80 minerals that your body can easily absorb.

So in short, if you’ve skipped to the end and are only reading this paragraph, avoid processed foods that are notoriously high in salt, and instead get the recommended amount of sodium in your diet by consuming healthier foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and meats. If your doctor has restricted your salt intake, please consult with them before changing your diet.