“Salt is what makes things taste bad when it isn’t in them.” – Anon
As Kris Ginnar writes, Sodium is one of those things that everyone “knows” is unhealthy… kind of like saturated fat.
The government has been warning us about it for decades and has spent a massive amount of resources warning us about the “dangers” of it. The reason they do so, is that sodium is believed to increase blood pressure, a common risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the two most common sources of death in middle- and high income countries.
The major health organizations that recommend we cut back on sodium to:
So… there is definitely a consensus among these organizations that we should aim for less than 1500 mg of sodium per day, and definitely not more than 2300 mg.
Keep in mind that salt contains both sodium and chloride. Only 40 percent of the weight of salt consists of sodium, so you can actually eat 2.5 times more salt than sodium. 1500 mg of sodium amounts to 0.75 teaspoons or 3.75 grams of salt per day, while 2300 mg amounts to one teaspoon or 6 grams of salt per day. Most people today are eating much more than that. The average intake of sodium is about 3400 mg, most of it coming from processed foods.
If these health organizations have their way, all of us need to make drastic changes in our food choices, start reading labels and start to actively restrict the amount of sodium in our diets. However, these health organizations do have a track record of getting things wrong in the past, such as the misguided dietary guidelines for low fat, cutting down on saturated fats and even to eat 50 to 60 percent of our dietary calories as carbohydrates.
So is sodium really that bad? Do the studies show that reducing sodium intake actually leads to improved health? And more importantly… if there are benefits to sodium restriction, are they important enough to be worth the obvious reduction in pleasure we will derive from our (now tasteless, salt-free) foods?
Sodium is a crucial electrolyte in the body. Many foods contain small amounts of sodium naturally, but most of the sodium in the diet comes from salt.