Sodium is a natural element that the body needs to function. It’ s important for water balance, nerve function, and countless other physiological functions. However you really only need a small amount per day. About 500 mg is plenty. That’s the amount you’d get just snacking on chips, crackers, various cheeses, salted nuts or eating canned food items like soups and canned veggies. The total daily recommended limit of sodium consumption is around 2,300 milligrams.
However, most Americans are eating too much sodium. WAY too much sodium. On average, 4,000 to 6,500 mg a day. It’s not only hurting their health, it’s expanding their waistlines. In fact, the American Medical Association is campaigning for the FDA to withdraw salts designation as a “safe” food additive. They’re pushing for Americans to cut their intake in half.
This isn’t too surprising. Food manufacturers have known for a long time that salt is an addictive substance. That’s why they pack it into more and more processed foods. People will eat more, and then food companies will make more money. A clinical research has shown that salt shares characteristics with addictive substances (like morphine, cocaine, and heroin) which release dopamine (feel-good brain chemicals) when we eat it. That’s why salt addictions are so common and why people have such a hard time cutting down. Often people who don’t even know they’re addicted to salt will experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to cut back.
A 2006 Finnish study published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases found a link between increased salt intake and obesity. From the 1980s to the mid 1990s, the salt intake in the United States increased by more than 50% as Americans started eating more and more processed foods. In the same time frame, obesity has gone up steadily. Also keep in mind that when people eat more salt, they will naturally have the desire to drink more fluids to maintain water balance in their bodies.
Unsurprisingly, between 1977 and 2001 the U.S. caloric intake from sweetened beverages like fruit juice, soft drinks and energy drinks increased by 135%. It’s pretty easy to see that as food companies make foods more salty, people will drink more and more super-sized sugary drinks to wash it down.
High sodium diets also are the leading cause of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. These diseases also go hand in hand with obesity. To alleviate the high blood pressure caused by salt intake, your body will dump extra water into your blood vessels which causes the overall pressure to increase as blood vessels expand. African Americans, Hispanics, and obese men and women have a higher sensitivity to sodium and are more prone to high blood pressure as a result. If you fall into one of these at-risk categories, you should try to limit your salt intake to less than 1,500 mg a day.
For regular salt use, I recommend using Celtic Sea Salt or pure Himalayan Pink Salt, because these have 84 minerals whereas regular table salt has only 2. They also don’t go through an unhealthy refining process like regular table salt does.
Also try to stay away from fast food, as many items at these restaurants will put you over your daily allowance really quickly. A McDonald’s double cheeseburger with small fries, for example, contains 1,310 mg of sodium. If you’re trying to be healthy at a fast food restaurant, good luck. The mesquite chicken salad at Chili’s has 2,710 mg of sodium. That’s more than most adults should eat in an entire day.
You can limit your salt intake by eating less processed food, getting frozen or fresh veggies instead of canned, buying fresh meats, choosing low-sodium options of canned soups and snacks, and asking for unsalted entrees at restaurants.