New Study Causing Outcry About Salt — The Thin Line Between Too Much and Not Enough

Friend of foe?  Both, actually.
Friend of foe? Both, actually.

Some things seem to yo-yo back and forth in the health and wellness world.  One study tells you eating eggs will kill you.  Next week it’s imperative that you eat more eggs.  Coffee is another one.  It has gone from being the health demon to the health savior so many times that you probably couldn’t get through your cup with a good feeling about it.  One enemy of the heart has remained steadfast though.  Salt has gained the evil reputation as the ultimate heart killer.  However, new studies being released have the American Heart Association on edge because they now question the science behind limiting salt to minuscule levels.

The danger here is that there are plenty of Americans that outright struggle day to day to try to reduce salt to the government’s guideline of 2300 milligrams or the AHA’s even stricter guideline of just 1500.  The AHA is concerned that the average American working on cutting salt might see a study like this and throw their hands up and say whatever.

It makes sense, in a way.  Like the above examples.  You like eggs, they tell you to stop eating eggs.  You cut it out or down, and then they tell you it was good for you.  Then a new study tells you you’re screwed.  A lot of people kind of reasoned that out to, hey, I’ll eat some eggs if I want to.  The evidence against the eggs was not unanimous or damning enough to go to great extents to cut them out if you like having them around.  Same with coffee.  For every article out there suggesting you cut it out completely, there’s another one saying that drinking seven cups a day or more will save your liver.  Most people shoot for the middle.  Maybe I won’t drink eight cups today, but I might have two or three and not worry about it.

The problem is that taking this perfectly reasonable approach with salt is dangerous.  Salt is the enemy.  This study needs to be taken with…we apologize for this one in advance…a grain of salt.  The study doesn’t mean that everything you ever heard about salt in too high of a quantity being bad for you is junk science nonsense.  It means that you do need salt, and cutting it down to ridiculously low levels can actually go back the other way, threatening your health in totally different ways.  So, the people that need to take notice of this latest information is those that went too hardcore on their salt conversation.  You need to get that 1500, or even the 2300.  You just don’t need to get more than that.

So, don’t throw your hands up and surrender and ask for the salt shaker.  It’s a good fight, but you might be fighting it too hard.  Don’t overdo the not doing.  Allow yourself the salt you need, and try to control it from there.  The real war on salt has been misunderstood in America for years; people think that this means don’t put salt on your food.  Well, that is good advice, but the salt you add to your fast food fries is bad, but leaving it out doesn’t mean you are that much more salt free.  The fry itself is already packed with tons of sodium before you ever thought about adding to it.  Not to mention the burger you had with it.  Not to mention the apple pie.  Say you stopped by a sandwich joint for a lighter, healthier lunch.  Unfortunately, even processed meat is chock full of salt.  Salt-wise, a sandwich can be worse than a meal you might consider to be the devil itself.  The real danger to people everywhere is the salt that is not in-your-face obvious.

So, don’t overdo it.  Don’t underdo it.  Try to stay within the lines.

Here’s another thing to consider if you are watching your salt intake.  While both the AHA and the FDA have daily guidelines, your body doesn’t shut off at a particular time.  These deadlines are more for us have something to try to gauge it by.  This means that having a salt-fest on Tuesday and then having the daily guideline on Wednesday still means you are way over on salt in general.  The daily guideline is a good way to look at it, but sometimes it can be easier to manage if you also look at it from a weekly standpoint as well.  Budget it like your checkbook.  Maybe you really eat light on the salt during the week because you know you want that one salt-bomb when you go out to dinner on Friday or Saturday night.  It’s not all about one day, because if you look at it that way, you’ll consume 4,000 mg one day and 2250 the next, and be patting yourself on the back.  Like most things in life, you have to try to find the balance and realize that you aren’t going to hit that figure every day, so you might want to try to have a sense of making up for things and budgeting to try to keep it somewhat in balance long term.  After all, it is the long term, and not what you do today or this week, that will determine the toll that excessive salt intake has on your heart.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing, Common Sense Conspiracy has addressed salt in our articles before.  Check out Are We Programmed to Think that Salt Tastes Good?

It's not just about the shaker anymore.  Salt is creeping up on you at every turn.
It’s not just about the shaker anymore. Salt is creeping up on you at every turn.