As Dear … as Salt

A king once asked his daughter how dear he was to her.
“As dear, as dear — as salt!” she said.

2k7 0827 Salina Praid (142)
Sparkling Salt from the Praid Salt Mine, Romania. Photo Emilia Dragne

The king thought that this was very little, and he was very unhappy with his child’s answer.
Soon thereafter he sponsored a great feast. The daughter saw to it that every dish was brought to the table unsalted, and thus nothing tasted good to the king.
Finally the daughter explained everything to him. He then recognized how important salt was…
(From an old German fairy tale)



The question I’m trying to answer is “How much salt is safe for me?”
First, the obvious. I’m citing from Wikipedia:

“Too much or too little salt in the diet can lead to muscle cramps, dizziness, or electrolyte disturbance, which can cause neurological problems, or even death.
Drinking too much water, with insufficient salt intake, puts a person at risk of water intoxication.
Death can occur by ingestion of large amounts of salt in a short time (about 1 g per kg of body weight). Deaths have resulted from attempted use of salt solutions as emetics.”

Salt is essential for life and salt consumption is an instinct that drives a human or animal to seek and ingest salt-containing foods. The hunger for salt is also influenced by taste, traditions in cooking and preserving methods and the widespread availability of salt in industrial food. To the point that it is difficult now to distinguish salt need from salt preference.

At some point in history, high salt consumption has been recognized as detrimental to health.
Research studies of salt effect on health fall in two categories. Many of them associate high intake of salt to high blood pressure and increased rates of cardiovascular disease. But a lot others have found flaws in their statistics and consider that there’s no reason for healthy individuals to cut down their salt intake. Especially that some studies used mice models.

There is however enough serious evidence that too much salt is bad for your heart and brain. and you simply shouldn’t ignore it.
If you will just give up junk food and limit processed meat, which every doctor, nutritionist, health organization in the world recommends, you will be reducing quite a lot the salt in your diet. But I guess whatever the science says, most people will eat as much salt as desired unless maybe at some point in life a doctor will say “stop this or you’ll die”.

In terms of safety, the lower and higher limits of salt consumption have not been clearly identified either.
There is an ongoing controversy, all parties shooting so many arguments and really, is difficult for me, at least, to trust any figures anymore.
When science is in doubt, I turn to my own experience and keep fingers crossed.
A very low-salt diet (less than 1500 mg) is almost impossible in a modern diet.
It’s not feasible. Even a diet with less than 2000 mg of salt daily is quite difficult to follow.

Too much salt in your food can cause edema (swelling due to fluid retention). This is easy to notice. If eating too much salty food in a day causes your ankles or joints to swell, then you have but one solution. Hide the salt shaker, add less salt to your food, limit consumption of processed meat and pickles. Generally, start reducing salt to the point you won’t notice edema symptoms.

When it comes to hypertension, reducing salt is a must.
In clinical trials, a reduction in salt intake is associated with reduced blood pressure, more so in persons with hypertension than in those with normal blood pressure.
Reduced salt intake is associated with greater blood-pressure responses to anti hypertensive drug therapy,including drug therapy in patients with resistant hypertension.

Whether you’re healthy or have medical problems, there are studies that say that it’s also important to increase potassium in your diet to counteract salt effects.
You might like to read more about this here, Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium.
This is not at all difficult if you include beans, potatoes, nuts, oranges, mushrooms, tomatoes and bananas in your menu.
In my case, a diet with  salt reduction (between 1600 – 2000 mg daily), increase of potassium rich food (around 3500 mg a day) and exercising a lot more resulted no doubt in less health problems.

However, in summer and when exercising a lot, I take care to drink mineral water  and eat a bit more salty.
Don’t wait to become thirsty to drink water but, especially  when it’s very hot outside. Drinking too much water and eating less salt it’s a recipe for feeling dizzy.
A bowl of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onion, parsley salad with olive oil, bit of lemon juice or vinegar, a few olives, bits of white cheese and black pepper  is the best summer salad recipe.
No need to add more salt, it will be crispier and enough salty from the delicious olives and cheese.



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