Your Life and Health – Salt

Imagine food without salt… pretty bland right? That’s because salt is one of our basic tastes. However, we are also told that too much can be bad for our health.

Table salt, which is also known as sodium chloride, is made up of two elements, sodium and chlorine. Sodium is an essential nutrient used in several of our bodies’ functions. However, consuming too much sodium is unhealthy. Among other things, high sodium intakes are known to raise the blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious problem worldwide.

High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, aneurism, kidney failure and dementia. If left uncontrolled, it could even cause blindness or heart failure.

But there is good news, hypertension is not only controllable, but it’s actually preventable. Blood pressure can be lowered naturally, without drugs or expensive treatments.

Simple lifestyle changes can have substantial effects. One of the easiest places to start is salt intake.

These numbers lead us to the obvious question: Where is all of this salt in our diet coming from?

A study published in the Journal of the American college of Nutrition found that processed foods were responsible for 77 percent of Americans’ daily sodium intake. Food manufactures in America seem to be cramming their products full of salt. Take these common pantry items as an example:

A serving of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup only contains 60 calories, but is loaded with 890mg of salt. One small box of Kraft Mac and Cheese contains a whopping 1740 mg of sodium. A Hungry Man Beer Battered Chicken Dinner contains 2,400 mg. That amount will put half the country well over their daily intake level.

But even these servings may be relatively small compared to what you’ll find at a restaurant. For example, a bean burrito at Taco Bell will provide you with a hefty 960 mg of sodium. Olive Garden’s classic lasagna weighs in with 2830 mg of sodium. And the vegetarian version of P. F. Chang’s Double Pan Fried Noodles contains a whopping 5,360 mg of sodium.

So as you begin to cut the excess salt from your diet, think of the added benefits you’ll experience. Processed foods aren’t only packed with salt, but they also contain a host of preservatives and chemicals. By eating more fresh, unprocessed foods you’ll also reap the benefits of consuming a healthier, more nutrient-rich diet. At the end of the day, nothing beats a simple home cooked meal.  

Jon Ewald, MD

Jon Ewald grew up in Minnesota and has a love for the outdoors. He obtained his medical degree at Loma Linda University, graduating in 2020. He is currently completing his residency in Radiology at University of Pittsburgh.

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