Scared to add salt to food? You need to read this...

The Good Life Letter 

17th August 2018

I do enjoy a good food fight.

They’re a staple of health journalism and media.

Celebrity chefs wading into arguments with fast food restaurants… a popular ingredient being vilified as the cause of all society’s woes…. experts upturning common beliefs about food or challenging scientific orthodoxy.

You get articles attacking, followed by articles defending. Scientists say one thing while a bunch of different scientists say another thing.

Lots of newspapers are sold and there are plenty of clicks on their website.

As for the poor public?

None the wiser. In fact, more confused.

Good old salt is a common subject of these food fights.

In the 1980’s salt was seen as a huge health problem and people were warned off it. I remember my parents virtually eliminating it from their diet, leading to a sharp downturn in the flavour of my mum’s cooking.

But then last year there was an outcry when an American scientist named James DiNicolantonio wrote a book called The Salt Fix.

His conclusion was that we’ve been given bad advice.

Have the authorities got it wrong? Are you eating too LITTLE salt?

The book claimed that that the World Health Organisation has got it wrong when they tell people to cut down on salt.

Salt is good for you, DiNicolantonio insisted. It helps reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. He also claimed that low-salt diets could cause brittle bones and memory loss.

“Most of us don’t need to eat low-salt diets,” he wrote. “In fact, for most of us, more salt would be better for our health rather than less.”

On the other hand, he pointed out; we should really be worried about sugar, which can lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and chronic kidney disease.

“Not salt”, he reminded the reader, “But sugar.”

Well, once this book came out, scientists and journo’s piled in to the argument, calling it ‘irresponsible’. The NHS pointed out that adults who eat above 6g of salt per day were at increased risk of high blood pressure heart attacks and stroke.

It could have been seen as another isolated food scuffle, one where the guy writing the controversial book gets decent exposure, while the media get a nice kickback from the outrage.

But in the same year that the book came out, world heart health expert Professor Salim Yusuf also claimed that it was dangerous to lower our salt intake as much as we’re being advised.

The recommended 6g of salt per day was too low, he argued, and could increase the risk of heart disease.
And now an international study could back up DiNicolantonio and Yuruf’s arguments.

You should eat over 5g a day for a healthy heart, say experts

Published last week in The Lancet, the study says, that regularly eating between 7.5g and 12.5g of salt (2g to 5g of sodium) a day makes little difference to your health.

And they propose that low levels of salt (below 5g) could put you at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
Professor Andrew Mente, from McMaster University in Canada said:

“Our study adds to growing evidence to suggest that, at moderate intake, sodium may have a beneficial role in cardiovascular health, but a potentially more harmful role when intake is very high or very low.”

Now, my view is that salt has been overly attacked and the main problem is that people don’t realise how much (and it’s often a LOT) is inside the processed food they buy.

If you avoid eating ready meals (or dramatically cut down) you’ll probably be able to add salt to meals without any fear of consuming an unhealthy amount. It’s estimated that only 5% of your intake on average comes from adding salt to a home-cooked meal.

Also watch out for takeaway food. A recent report by Action on Salt showed that Chinese takeaway dishes often contain as much salt as five Big Macs.

I’m not saying don’t enjoy the occasional treat. But stay aware.

A lower sodium alternative

If you really like your salt, and use lots of it in your cooking I’d also recommend you try something like this: magnesium salt.

Magnesium-enriched table salt is lower in sodium than table salt, making it a far healthier option.

On top of that, it gives you a daily magnesium boost which could help ease chronic pain, nausea, exhaustion, insomnia, restless legs, cramps, acid indigestion, dizziness, poor memory, anxiety, facial tics, severe PMS, appetite loss, and many more problems.

A common sense way forward

As for these ongoing food fights in the media, they’ll never stop coming – sometimes you see the same articles endlessly rehashed every few years. It’s best not to let yourself get too upset or confused by them.

I’ve written in previous Good Life Letters that we tend to vilify certain ingredients instead of looking at our diet as a whole, and that’s the real problem here.

Instead of panicking people about salt, sugar and fat, we should show people how to cook good food at home. When this happens, our salt and sugar intake will tend to fall to safer levels anyway.

As food writer Michael Pollan argues, cooking is the most important step we can take to end our dependence on addictive, unhealthy food made by corporations. 

I know that it’s not always easy in our time-poor modern society, neither is it cheap sometimes, which is why I created this Natural Food Wisdom Pack.

It includes a series of carefully selected recipes to help get balanced nutrition into your diet. But it also shows you how and when to source inexpensive ingredients.

Plus it covers which foods you should eat if you have been diagnosed with any of a whole range of health conditions.

Try them out and see what you think!

Yours, as always




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