It’s white. It’s… well, salty, and it’s incredibly bad for you, right?
Well, not exactly.
We’ve been told for years that too much salt is bad for our health and can contribute to hypertension and heart disease. Well, too much of anything is bad for our health. Water is necessary to sustain life, but drink too much of it too soon and you could find yourself in real trouble.
So, is it true that we all need to reduce our sodium intake?
Some experts are now starting to think salt isn’t the bad guy we all thought it was, and that the push to reduce sodium intake for the entire population could have unintended, unfortunate consequences.
Another Faulty Scientific Hypothesis?
Whether the people at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) truly have our best interests at heart, we’ll never know for sure. Suffice it to say, they often vilify foods they deem very bad for us.
They first did it with saturated fat and cholesterol. For years, we couldn’t so much as look at an egg yolk without fear we’d have a heart attack right on the spot.
It turns out, the USDA got that one wrong. Cholesterol is healthy and necessary for optimum health. After 50 some-odd years of ordering egg white omelets, we were all given the green light to eat the entire egg!
Well, a number of well-respected experts are now claiming the USDA got another one wrong – the war on salt. They believe recent studies of salt will prove to be what the USDA’s other studies on fat and cholesterol proved to be: based entirely on faulty scientific hypotheses.
“I think guidelines that affect millions of people should be made on the basis of unambiguous scientific evidence,” says Niels Graudal, MD, a Danish researcher who has published many research studies on sodium.
Experts are worried the push for an intense reduction in sodium for all people could wind up backfiring in unexpected ways.
For example, remember how we had a war on fat? Low-fat diets were all the rage for 20+ years. And what happened? Incidents of diabetes rose steadily. And why? If you’re going to take out fat from processed foods, you’re going to have to replace it with carbs and sugar to make it palatable.
Sodium is Complex
When it comes to the effects on our health, some substances are pretty cut and dry. Tobacco for instance – many studies have concluded smoking leads to cancer, chronic lung disease, atherosclerosis and increased mortality. There has never been a study that found smoking tobacco to be beneficial to our health, or not smoking to be dangerous to our health.
But salt is complicated.
A meta-analysis published last August in the American Journal of Hypertension found no evidence that cutting sodium intake in people with normal or high blood pressure reduces the risk of heart attacks or strokes. And the authors of a study published last May in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that eating less salt was associated with an increase in deaths from heart disease.
This juxtaposition has been going on for years. Every time a new study appears that claims sodium reduction is beneficial, another one is published that shows the opposite.
So What is the Truth?
The truth is, when it comes to salt’s impact on our health, everyone has a different reaction to it.
You’ve heard higher amounts of salt lead to high blood pressure. But the truth is, everyone’s blood pressure responds differently to salt. Your genes can contribute to your reaction to salt as much if not more than your diet. Some people are just more sensitive to salt, and their blood pressure skyrockets after consuming ample amounts.
Also, sodium is not the only trigger of high blood pressure. In fact, studies have shown that sugar, the other white stuff, contributes more to high blood pressure than salt. In other words, people who have high blood pressure may ultimately have it for other reasons than consuming salt.
Paul Rosch, MD, FACP, and clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College and president of The American Institute of Stress has said, “The vast number of people you see with hypertension have no specific, obvious cause for it. Hypertension, like fever, is not a diagnosis but rather a description. It is simply an elevated blood pressure reading . . . that can have many different causes. That helps to explain why we have around 100 drugs to treat high blood pressure.”
Our Bodies Need Salt
While the USDA is shouting at us to eat less salt, those medical professionals who know better are reminding everyone that the human body needs salt to function properly. Sodium, which along with chloride makes up a salt molecule, is a key player in dozens of different biological processes, from muscle contractions (e.g., the heart pumping) to nerve impulses (e.g., the brain firing) to balancing the movement of water in and out of cells. It also interacts closely with a variety of other chemicals and minerals in the body.
No one can say for sure the exact amount of salt that is right for each individual, as it depends on other factors like water and potassium intake, genetic predispositions to hypertension, and physical exercise.
The Sodium/Potassium Balance
When it comes to lowering your blood pressure, studies have clearly shown that having the correct balance of potassium to sodium is far more important than lowering salt alone.
Potassium is a mineral that our bodies use as an electrolyte. It is critical for optimal health. It functions in many important ways, most notably by relaxing the walls of our arteries, keeping our muscles from cramping, and combating the sodium in our body to lower blood pressure.
Most Americans eat too much processed foods, which contributes to too much sodium in their diets. By foregoing processed foods for whole foods rich in fruits and vegetables, you will naturally bring your sodium and potassium levels back into balance. Be sure to eat plenty of potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes, bananas, and white beans.
The moral of this story? There are two morals:
ONE: we can’t always listen to a government agency when it comes to what is healthy and what isn’t. We must use common sense when it comes to diet and lifestyle. The healthier we eat, the healthier we’ll be.
TWO: high blood pressure can be caused by multiple things, but the three BIGGEST culprits are: inflexible blood vessels, clogged up arteries and chronic stress.
But here’s the good news…
Thanks to the wonders of supplementation, it’s become more easier than ever to maintain a healthy heart and blood pressure level. And when it comes to blood pressure supplementation, I’d highly recommend HeartZest and CardioRelax AO.
Using a proprietary blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to “unblock” arteries and improve healthy blood circulation… HeartZest and CardioRelax AO work together to support health blood pressure.