Do you have irresistible cravings for chips and salty foods? Your body may be sending you a healthy message to eat more salt!
As long as I can remember, limiting salt intake has been synonymous with preventing disease. The USDA actually states that salt is public enemy #1 ahead of sugar, alcohol and trans-fats. I adhered to the “eat less salt” advice for years, eating plain rice, oatmeal with unsalted butter and veggies with a squeeze of lemon. Of course the flip side was that when a bag of potato chips presented itself, I ate heartily, sometimes unable to stop.
So it was a surprise to me when, a few years back, I read in J. Wilsons book Adrenal Fatigue that low-salt intake actually contributed to the poor functioning of over-taxed adrenal glands, an all too common occurrence in our stressed out society. He advised using sea-salt mixed in water as a remedy for this type of fatigue which occurs when the adrenals are called upon too frequently to secrete cortisol and adrenaline in response to internal or external stressors. My own response to this advice was a physical flood of relief, and an internal YES that carried me immediately to the salt-shaker and began joyous reunion with this necessary mineral. To be able to salt my food to taste and not feel like I’m causing harm is one of the many gifts this nutritional path has brought me.
Now, researchers at the Institute of Medicine have reviewed the scientific studies and are suggesting that lowering sodium intake to the levels suggested by the American Heart Association may actually increase the risk of early death. Sodium is a vital nutrient, required for normal cell metabolism, nerve transmission and even stomach acid production. The IOM suggested in their report that a very low intake (less that 2300 mg per day or 3/4 tsp) may actually shorten your life.
If you often feel an overwhelming urge to down a bag of chips or a jar of pickles, it’s worth examining your overall salt intake. If you follow the standard guidelines put forth by the powerful medical organizations, you may be limiting your salt too much. It could be that you’ve fallen below the optimal salt intake and it’s worth adding salt to your healthy real-food diet to see if this prevents the overeating of salty processed foods; the salty part might be fine for you, but the “processed” part is good for no one.
Natural sources of sodium include seaweed, fish and shellfish as well as beets, carrots, celery, spinach, and turnips. Sea salt and other natural forms of salt have been shown to have higher trace mineral content than refined table salt which is heavily processed, lacking trace minerals, and most often contains additives such as anti-caking agents.
For more insights and a sharp eyed look at the politics of this debate read Gary Taubes article in the New York Times and for an in depth series of web articles on salt, read Shaking Up the Salt Myth by Chris Kessler.
To Your Best Health, Cassandra Mick, CNE
Read more about Cassandra’s approach to nutrition or schedule a free Nutriton Strategy Session at www.eatwellpdx.com