Salt has a mixed reputation. For every study showing that eating less salt saves lives, there’s another claiming salt isn’t as bad as we thought.
In all likelihood, whether or not salt is truly “bad” for you depends on:
- Who you are & what chronic diseases run in your family
- What your general eating and exercise habits are
- Whether you’re overweight and/or suffer from any diet-related diseases
If you’re at healthy weight, exercise regularly, don’t have cardiovascular disease, and make most of your meals from scratch at home, salting your food probably doesn’t affect much about your health.
If you have high blood pressure, eat out frequently, or rely heavily on prepared/frozen/canned foods, paying attention to salt (via reading Nutrition Labels and inquiring about salt at restaurants) is probably necessary.
Here’s my own approach to salt:
- I use salt fairly liberally in cooking and at home.
- I find salt significantly improves the flavor of healthy foods, even in the presence of other flavorful additions like fresh herbs and citrus.
- I don’t pay much attention to how much salt I use in cooking or eat, as long as I’m at home making meals from scratch.
Here’s why I have this approach:
- I have low blood pressure, am at a healthy weight and don’t have cardiovascular disease in my family.
- I eat a lot of fiber from whole grains and raw fruits & vegetables (which helps keep blood pressure low).
- I rarely buy pre-made or prepared foods.
- I don’t eat restaurant food very often (3-4 times/month).
- Adding salt to veggies and other healthy cooked dishes makes me enjoy them more, which motivates me to eat these more regularly. If I had to eat unsalted steamed veggies or bland food, I wouldn’t choose these healthy foods very often, and my overall diet would probably be worse.
A few instances where I skimp on the salt:
- When I’m using broth, canned tomatoes, canned beans or another pre-salted processed food
- When I’ll be using a salty sauce like salsa, ketchup, mustard, mayo, etc.
- When any salted preserved food is present – olives, pickles, roasted red peppers, cured or smoked meat, etc.
- When I’m adding lots of cheese to a dish.
Disclaimer: As with all of my posts, this information is based on my own experience and knowledge and should not replace the advice of your doctor or dietitian.
shelleyMarch 3, 2014 at 9:36 am
I like this no-nonsense explanation. For many years I didn’t add a grain of salt to ANY food, thinking that was a healthy practice. I don’t really have a salt “weakness” (I never crave chips or other salty foods), so I didn’t think adding it would make much of a difference in taste. Since I’ve experimented with it, however, I really do enjoy my veggies so much more.
Megan (The Lyons' Share)March 4, 2014 at 6:37 am
Perfectly explains my thoughts … I so often find myself explaining to others why I’m not concerned about my personal salt intake, and this is almost exactly what I say! (with the addition of the fact that I sweat intensely almost every day). Thanks for sharing!
Amelia WinslowMarch 4, 2014 at 1:21 pm
Thanks, Megan! Glad you agree too 🙂
Amelia WinslowMarch 4, 2014 at 1:21 pm
The taste difference is amazing!!
RachelMarch 5, 2014 at 5:21 pm
These are great points! Everything always comes back to moderation, doesn’t it? Well, maybe except for vegetable consumption! :). I like Megan’s point about sweating everyday too. I never thought of that, but I bet it makes a difference!
AnnaMarch 10, 2014 at 8:50 pm
Hi Amelia! I’m so happy to come across your awesome blog! I’m on my jouney to becoming an RD as well!
Very interesting about the salt. I however, do watch it a bit because both of my parents have hypertension. The only difference is that they’re overweight and I’m not but I keep on the err side. Thank you for the post!
Amelia WinslowMarch 11, 2014 at 6:08 pm
Thanks for stopping by, Anna! I agree that you’re in the category of people who would benefit from watching salt intake. Best wishes on your path to becoming an RD!