Is Salt Bad for You?

Is salt bad for you? Yes, despite what others would have you believe.

Is salt bad for you? Salt contributes to heart disease, stroke, and many other illnesses.

So why did Good Morning America feature a chef who recommends pouring salt into everything on the morning show…during February’s heart disease awareness month and all the American Heart Association events?

Is Salt Bad for You?

You wouldn’t think so watching the morning shows.

Talk about jaw-dropping insanity on television…and it was only 8:30 a.m.m

This morning’s television news broadcasts proves that the media is clueless when it comes to nutrition.

On the local news broadcast, reporters featured the “Go Red for Women” campaign and local events. Fifteen women, all survivors of heart disease and strokes, shared their inspiring stores. A fashion show raised funds for the American Heart Association while b-roll showed women at a gym working out. It was all feel-good, we’re in this together to beat heart disease stuff.

Not a word mentioned about diet.

One channel away, on the national news, a different story unfolded on Good Morning America. Chef Samin, a globally known chef famous for her “Salt Fat Acid Heat” Netflix show, books, and website, demonstrated her approach of basically dousing every food in the kitchen with salt. Except for strawberries. Thankfully, the strawberries escaped the shower of salt and instead glistened under lemon juice.

I had never heard of Chef Samin before and I didn’t recognize her picture, but when I Googled her name, I found her work immediately. She’s famous for “Salt Fat Acid Heat” a Netflix show, a website, and cookbooks. Now, you may say that such a chef is not about health; she focuses on taste and pleasing diner’s palates with delicious food. That’s true, and I understand that not every recipe has to be healthy. But to show her pouring salt on everything and recommending salting cooking water so that it is “salty as the sea” (3.5% salinity) is insane.

If you add 3.5% salt to an 8-quart stock pot, you are adding a quarter cup of salt to the cooking water. How much does the pasta absorb? I don’t know. I do know that this is insane when the preponderance of evidence indicates that salt contributes to heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.

Don’t believe me? Okay, then believe the Harvard Health Blog. 

And that’s what really got me up in arms this morning. I made the mistake of sharing my disbelief that two such conflicting stories could be paraded across the television screen by the networks. I shared it on Facebook. Within minutes, two people “corrected” me to state emphatically that “salt does not contribute to heart disease.”

I hate to burst your salty bubble, friends, but the evidence is clear, compelling and consistent. Eating excess salt can and does contribute to high blood pressure, a silent killer. It screws up your body in myriad ways. It’s not good for your health.

Why do people dislike that statement so much? I think it gets down to the fact that people don’t realize how much salt they are actually eating in a day. I know that I didn’t know how much salt I ingested until I started tracking it in December. If you had asked me, I would have shrugged and said, “Well, I guess I eat a moderate salt diet.”

 

Hidden Salt Is Everywhere

Salt hides within nearly every processed food on the grocery store shelves. It extends the shelf life of food and as Chef Samin correctly states, it makes food taste better.

The problem, of course, is that most Americans, myself included, rely upon a diet of processed food for convenience, taste, and comfort.

Sodium lurks within everything. Bread has a lot of sodium. Canned soup? Forget it. Canned beans? Yes. Baked beans? 400 mg or more per serving. A box of scalloped potato mix? Forget it, you’re over 1,000 mg for that or stuffing mix or dried mashed potatoes.

Lunch meat?  Yes, lots of it there. And let’s not go into the topic of fast food. A bacon quarter pounder with cheese from the popular McDonald’s tops out at 1,450 mg of sodium and that is in ONE FOOD ITEM. Add French fries? 221 mg. You are now at 1671 mg of sodium for lunch alone.  The current recommendation is 2,300 mg or less. You can see how quickly it adds up.

Good Cooking Is Healthy Cooking

I would counter Chef Samin’s comments that ‘good cooking means using salt.’  Good cooking is healthy cooking. What I would love to see are more chefs and others offering healthy low or no-salt recipes that pack flavor into every bite.

It’s not easy to learn to cook without salt. It’s hard to manage the dietary needs of two adults when one is on a low sodium diet. But we are doing it, day by day.  I don’t want to get heart disease like everyone on my dad’s side of the family. The evidence is clear – excess salt can really hurt your body. So no, Chef Samin, sadly you cannot add salt liberally to everything. Not if you value your life.

Is salt bad for you? Yes. Because you get plenty from natural sources like vegetables and fruit. Adding extra salt is not good for you.

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