Sodium: Misunderstood and misinformed

By Roy Kim, May 06 2014

There have been plenty of times I’ve heard someone proudly say they never add salt to their food. Then an entire bottle of hot sauce goes on their sausage and pepperoni pizza. This scenario demonstrates how little awareness the general public has about their sodium intake. When people think about salt, what usually comes to mind is a salt shaker. They don’t realize how much sodium is added from the processing and preparation of the foods they eat. They don’t see the hot sauce for the liquid salt it is. On top of this, they wrongfully equate salt-free with healthy-living.   

 

In ancient times, Roman soldiers were paid to conquer and protect salt supplies. This is where the word salary comes from. Salt was used to make food taste better and still is. Before refrigeration, salting was the first method of preserving food. Salt was once extremely expensive; in the Middle Ages it was often referred to as “white gold”. This is due to the benefits mentioned and the fact we need sodium to contract our muscles, we need sodium to keep our bodily fluids in balance, we need sodium so our nerves can communicate with each other, and we need this essential compound to keep us alive!

So how did salt go from something worth killing for to something that kills? Somehow sodium beat out nicotine and alcohol as Public Enemy No. 1! The logic used to come to this conclusion is: sodium consumption = hypertension, hypertension = heart disease,  therefore sodium consumption = heart disease.  The premise that’s in question is the link between hypertension and sodium intake. The conspiracy theorist in me and this article tell me salt was framed as the scapegoat by researchers that needed to show the public they’re actually doing something and the gravy train they’re riding is too good to give up.

So we’re consuming more sodium than we realize but sodium is not actually bad for us. So what’s the problem? This article sounds like I’m contradicting myself and these wrongs cancel each other out. With the food industry the way it is today, chances are that we are probably consuming a higher than optimal level of sodium consisting of less than ideal sources. Like everything in life, balance is key.  A wise man once said “And now you know, and knowing is half the battle!” 

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