If you caught some of the recent studies on sodium—you may be left confused at whether you should increase or decrease your current sodium intake. We’re here to help clear this up a bit.
First, make sure you know the basics on sodium and your body by reading The Shake Out on Sodium, Part I.
Too Much or Too Little?
Many of us have been told to decrease our sodium intake, which isn’t surprising because Americans typically take in about 3,300 milligrams per day and not just from the salt shaker. It’s estimated that 75 percent of our sodium intake comes from restaurant and packaged foods. Despite this, a recently published report warned that low sodium diets can actually be risky.
Low Sodium Controversy
In 2013, the Institute of Medicine issued a report that had media headlines shouting that lowering daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams may do more harm than good. In fact, the study has led people to believe that decreasing salt lower than 2,700 milligrams per day would have little to no positive effects on health (such as lowering blood pressure).
According to the study, there was an absence of health benefit data and a suggestion of harm in some subgroups. But more research is needed, because doctors and scientists are still debating the issue and the American Heart Association and The Center for Science in the Public Interest continue to support Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. The CDC recommends that younger adults stick to no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day and people over the age of 51, African-Americans and anyone with high blood pressure should aim for no more than 1,500 mg per day.
The Shake Out
So where do you stand? It’s likely you aren’t at a health risk due to low sodium intake—most Americans aren’t. But this doesn’t mean you need to cut it out of your life!
As we discussed in Part I, salt is essential to many different health functions and you should still keep it as part of your diet, but pay attention to what kind of salt you’re taking in.
A diet based on whole fruits and vegetables with a minimum of processed or packaged foods is beneficial for many health reasons, including keeping one’s blood sodium levels in check. Try to stick to an organic, whole foods diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, proteins and healthy fats, and limit consumption of processed or restaurant foods. Also, remember to select an unrefined, natural salt like Himalayan sea salt.