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Is anyone else bothered by all the talk about reducing salt intake?

Let me just get this off my chest ... Salt is not evil.

There, I said it.

And, I mean it.

Don't get lost in the hysteria and headlines.

There have been no (read: none, nada, zero) studies that have shown that salt actually causes hypertension.

Observational studies (and those are the only ones we have at this point) only show that salt intake tracks with hypertension, however there is no evidence suggesting that reducing salt intake actually lowers the risk of developing hypertension, or other cardiovascular risks.

In other words ... correlation does not mean causation.

Then there are those people who actually require more than the recommended amount of salt. Some of us (like yours truly) have low blood pressure and require additional salt in our diets. Others have certain tachycardic conditions that require salt.

For a balanced look at salt and public welfare, this is a good starting point: http://www.nasw.org/awards/1999/99Tau...

So, step back from the Kool-Aid folks, salt isn't evil. In fact, I would dare say that it is the people who say salt is evil who are in fact the evil-doers.

Devil's in the details, as they say.

There, I feel much better now.

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  1. While I don't think there is anything intrinsically wrong with lowering sodium intake, such advice must be taken with a grain of salt (roll eyes, groan). Some people are sensitive to sodium (such as myself), so they must watch the sodium intake. But it makes no difference to others, such as yourself, ipsedixit. I don't think sodium causes hypertension, but it can exacerbate the problem. Even people who are on very low sodium diets can have high blood pressure.

    A large amount of the sodium consumed in foods today come from processed foods and preservatives. Otherwise, they would taste like cardboard and go bad very quickly. With fresh foods, you really don't need that much salt anyway.

    1. My biggest problem in the whole debate (which raytamsgv alludes to) is that people are interchangeably using the terms "salt" and "sodium". I've even seen this done on national news reports. These are very different things! If you're cooking from scratch at home, you're using salt and it's comprised of only about 40% sodium (I think that's the number I read recently - don't quote me) whereas processed foods use sodium as a preservative and flavorant, increasing the sodium content - not salt necessarily. So you could totally stop salting food or using salt in cooking, but if you don't watch your processed food intake, you might not have any impact on your health whatsoever. I watch sodium by reading labels and rinsing canned beans, etc., but I am not afraid of throwing kosher salt into my cooking!

      1. any medical folk speaking here?

          1. The OP asks if we are bothered about all the talk about reducing salt intake.

            Well, I couldnt give monkey's toss about all the talk, nor do I give a toss about what anyone else does. So long as no-one forces me to eat more of it than I do now, then I'm a happy bunny. I dont cook with it and don't add it to my food at the table. Havnt for years and now find many dishes prepared by others to be far too salty for my current tastes. What other folk choose to do is a matter for them.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Harters

              I used to cook and eat without salt, too, for decades, and had the same experience of everything prepared tasting terribly salty to me. In recent years as my hormone function has changed, I've had periods of intense salt cravings as my needs changed and was really surprised to learn how my health needs changed my experience of the taste from objectionable to desirable. But that only happens when I need the extra salt.

              1. re: mcf

                Actually there are two things which I eat with sea salt. And it's because I like the specific taste and crunch of the sea salt with them, not as a particular enhancer to the veg (as I'm also happy to eat them without).One is simply boiled or steamed asparagus. The other is raw celery. Don't ask me why these and nothing else as I dunno.

                1. re: Harters

                  During my otherwise added salt free years, I always put it on eggs and raw tomatoes.
                  I just thought about it, and even when I'm craving salt, I don't put it on asparagus, which I love plain steamed or sauteed with olive oil.

                  1. re: Harters

                    i LOVE kosher salt on steamed/caramelized veggies... carrots, squash, broccoli, cauliflower... i love the big crunch flakes and saltiness contrasted with the sweetness of the veggies... damn, now i'm hungry for carrots and salt.

                    1. re: Emme

                      i use kosher salt on my peanut butter.
                      gives it a little more of a kick.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        That's something - salt on pb - my mother and her family before her always did, with regular table salt. I didn't know it wasn't the "done thing" until I was older.

                2. re: Harters

                  I don't give a rip so long as nobody takes my salt away. I'll use as much of it as I damned well please.

                3. Personally, I'm not bothered. I drink so much water daily that I could use a little extra salt in my diet. I also rarely eat that much processed food so that's not a problem. If anything, people should be worried about their potassium intake.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                    You raise a good point. Often, the issue is not excess intake of salt; it's not drinking enough hypotonic fluids.

                  2. Count me in with those who are bothered. I, too, need extra salt in my diet because of extremely low blood pressure. My doctor has told me, "Use all the salt you'd like - and then add some more."

                    Fortunately, I love salt. I think, though, that it's interfering with my cooking ability a little bit. I'm so worried that my salt tolerance has made me less able to detect appropriate levels of saltiness in my cooking that I tend to underseason. Boo. I use volunteer tasters to let me know if I'm on track.

                    1. Couldn't care less. As I prepare approx. 90% of what I put in my mouth myself, I use as much salt as I want.

                      1. People underestimate the fantastic capacity of their kidneys to regulate fluid volume and electrolyte concentrations. Unless you have renal problems or existent hypertension, I don't think a pinch more or less salt will do much harm.

                        1. I don't think that salting your food in your home is the culprit here. But processed foods often have loads of salt. Anyone checked the labels of Progresso soups? The ingredient is not salt, either. It is sodium. And the salt on the french fries at the burger place is one thing, but in one of the processed sandwiches, who knows how much salt or sodium is there? In other words, we don't always know the extent of the added salt. Salt is often used to mask inferior indredients, IMO. And when you are ordering your dinner, you shouldn't have to worry about inflated sodium level masking crummy ingredients or bad food prep. And I am not convinced that so much salt in our diet is healthy.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sueatmo

                            Pure sodium is unstable and would spontaneously combust. It is super stable, however, complexed as Sodium Chloride (or iodide for iodized salt and the discouragement of gout in the western world), or table salt. Salt is necessary but definitely in moderation; our bodies wouldn't be able to function without sufficient sodium for countless body processes.

                            The hidden salt you mention, however is a big issue if people aren't aware of how much they're eating. Good point about inferior preparation/ingredients. Sometimes it's how I can tell how fresh ingredients were before they were cooked and served to me.

                            1. re: Cookiephage

                              It's not just the hidden sodium chloride. Sodium benzoate and monosodium glutamate are often major contributors to the total sodium found in processed foods.

                          2. i couldn't care less about the 'talk'.
                            the restaurants that i frequent all use what i consider the "right" amount of salt.
                            if they started to use less of it, i could add it myself.

                            1. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that salt causes hypertension.

                              1. interesting post... i am the same as you, my blood pressure runs in the high 80's over 50's, and my doctor always says, "eat salt. lots of it." if i don't have enough salt, i have major issues with light-headedness when i stand. orthostatic.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Emme


                                  Pulse: low 40s to high 30s.

                                  Sometimes my doc thinks I'm a walking zombie ...

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Either that or you exercise a whole lot.

                                2. As someone who uses/eats very few prepared foods at home but cooks with as much salt as I like (a lot), I am curious to know how food manufacturers jam as much sodium into their products without their tasting overtly salty (at least to me). If there are 2000 mg sodium in a tsp of salt and you use that much in a recipe to serve say six, you are not getting anywhere nearly as much as in a packaged product but the dish will taste satisfyingly salty and if you add more, overly salty. What food "magic" is employed in the processed food industry to keep the perceived saltiness lower?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    At least in the case of products it is some form of sugar. Or HFCS. The sweetness cuts the saltiness. However, it wreaks havoc with the taste.

                                  2. I'm not the least bit bothered by it. I'm not a no-salt person but I eat much less salt than most Americans, and a lot of commercial food is plain inedible to me because it's so oversalted. Lower the salt by all means - salt-lovers can always add more, but you can't take it out at the table!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Kajikit

                                      Yes, we can add more but many dishes use salt (and different) kinds at different stages of the cooking process for them to taste right. The layering of flavors matters. Just putting salt on the top of my food isn't going to be the same thing.

                                    2. It seems that if you're concerned about sodium/salt in your diet the best solution is simply to avoid processed foods or only purchase those that are labeled "low sodium."