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The Truth About Salt [New Research Says Increasing Salt Decreases Heart Attacks]

Posted Oct 12 2011 12:42am

“Keep your family goiter free! Or else Norman Rockwell will not want to paint adver-pictures of your family!”

Pop quiz time! Salt: life-giving nutrient or heart attack in a ceramic shaker? If you grew up like I did then you probably think of salt as a no-no for a healthy lifestyle but research is now saying that not only does salt not cause heart attacks like we’ve all been told for the past 20 years, but that slashing salt intake increases incidence of cardiovascular death. Surprised? You shouldn’t be – this ”new” research that’s been making headlines over the past few weeks is based on studies over 20 years old. And yet one of the first things people generally do when they’re trying to get healthy is cut back on sodium. Whole diet programs are based almost solely around this one principle.

Me being me, I took this advice to heart and removed almost all salt from diet several years ago. I never added even a smidgen of salt to foods and if a recipe called for it I just omitted it (yet another reason my cookies turned out like turds?). My self righteousness knew no bounds as I handed the salt shaker back to the waiter telling him we wouldn’t be needing that murderous mineral at our table.

So imagine my surprise when during my Great Over-Exercising Debacle Where I Suppressed My Thyroid, Gained Ten Pounds and Lost My Freaking Mind one of the first things my doctor told me to do was to eat more salt. Her recommendation was based on the fact I needed more iodine – a nutrient commonly added to table salt – to support my floundering thyroid but when I told her I’d cut all salt out of my diet years before, her jaw dropped. “Why would you do that?” she gasped. “You need salt!”

I should have known that salt wasn’t all evil when my infant son used to get super excited to see me after a hard workout – so he could lick the salty sweat off my shoulder and neck. Yeah, my 10-lb baby boy that I pushed out my nethers and therefore owes me big time for the rest of my life, only loved me as a salt lick.  Babies may shoot poop up their backs but they’re not dumb, especially when it comes to feeding. Humans need some salt.

But like anything in nature, salt doesn’t operate in a vacuum. (When I was a kid I thought the adage was “Nature whores a vacuum” which if you’ve ever seen a Kirby Vacuum sales presentation, is kinda true.) Sodium needs to be balanced with potassium for our bodies to function properly on a cellular level. This is the idea behind those “electrolyte replacement” drinks sweaty exercisers are pushed to drink and all the banana-pimping at races (wow, could I have made that sound any worse?). Note : while bananas are a good source of potassium they’re not dietary rockstars in that nutrient. Apricots, tomato puree, raisins and figs take top honors with apricots containing more than 3 times the amount of potassium.

And yet, research still shows that salt can increase blood pressure and that some people are genetically sensitive to the white stuff. In addition, conventional medical wisdom still advises all adults to cut sodium intake. Plus salt makes you bloat and that’s the last thing we girls need. Even more confusing are all the different types of salt with their different medicinal properties and how table salt is processed into impotency. So which is it? And if we do eat salt, what kind? And how much? And isn’t it kinda gross and unhygienic to let your baby lick you after a workout?

For myself I have decided that salt has long been considered essential for humans and I’m going to eat it and not worry about limiting it in my foods. I also make sure to eat plenty of potassium as well. My only caveat is that I try to only eat salt I add myself rather than buying sodium laden processed foods. I trust my Celtic sea salt. I don’t trust that can of soup giving me the evil eye on aisle 13.

What’s your opinion on salt? Were you as surprised by these findings as I was? Anyone want to educate me on which type of salt I should be using?

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