Do you really know the effects of salt on our health? A real public health issue, this condiment is now at the heart of a controversy. Table salt, sea salt, fake salt... The consumption of salt in our diet is becoming a real challenge on a daily basis. Is the salt-free diet dangerous or necessary? Find out today about the facts and figures on the low-salt diet.
Salt: public enemy number one?
For several years now, the health authorities have been waging war on this condiment that enhances the taste of our dishes and preserves our food. Why is salt so controversial?
It is not for nothing that the amount of salt in industrial ingredients has been reduced. The dangers of salt are real and can be serious for our well-being. Too much table salt, mainly sodium chloride, has an acidifying effect on our organs. This is why it is an aggravating risk factor for high blood pressure. According to INSERM, this disease affects nearly one French person in three. The blood that circulates in our blood vessels is under abnormally high pressure and leads to cardiovascular and cerebral diseases.
In addition, over-consumption of salt causes a considerable loss of calcium, which is eliminated in the urine. It is this mineral in particular that strengthens our bones. When consumed in excessive quantities, salt increases the risk of osteoporosis, i.e. the loss of bone mass and the weakening of our skeleton. The high concentration of sodium in our urine causes calcium to crystallize and form kidney stones.
Is salt good for you?
Since the salt war began, we often hear advertising messages urging us to watch our salt intake. "For your health, don't eat too much fat, too much sugar or too much salt". Yes, but be careful not to fall into the opposite trap and suffer from mineral deficiency. Despite the rumours, salt also has its virtues for our body.
It is a perfect grandmother's remedy for whitening teeth and eliminating bad breath, and is both antiseptic and antifungal. Not only does it remove folic acid impurities, dead skin and dandruff from the scalp, but it also moisturises the skin naturally, slowing down the ageing process.
The benefits of salt are not limited to cosmetics. It is a great asset for exfoliating the skin, but it is also essential for the proper functioning of our brain and muscles. Rich in minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, etc., it is involved in cell renewal. In particular, the sodium chloride it contains facilitates intracellular exchanges and the circulation of nerve impulses. By acting as an electrical conductor, it manages the entry of nutrients into the cells. It is in fact an electrolyte that contributes to the balance of water in our body: it retains water when we consume it and ejects it when we do not have enough. Our health therefore depends on a balance in our salt consumption.
Iodised salt, i.e. salt enriched with iodine, also helps to treat the symptoms of tyroid disorders. The thyroid needs this trace element to produce hormones that are necessary for our body. Iodine deficiency can slow down the functioning of the thyroid
Read also: How to avoid thyroid cancer?
The difference between salt and sodium
Be careful not to confuse 'bad salt' with 'good salt'. Industrial salt must be distinguished from natural salt. There is also a big difference between salt and sodium. Salt itself is not dangerous to health, but rather some of its components are, especially sodium. But salt also contains potassium. Sufficient potassium intake has been shown to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality by lowering blood pressure. At Lepivits we have developed our Magnesium + Potassium product, a mixture that helps the nervous system and muscles to function properly. Potassium compensates for the negative effects of excess sodium. Sodium is the main ingredient of industrial salt, known as table salt, which is supplemented with iodine, as our bodies tend to lack it. Yet iodine is essential to our health. This creates a major dilemma: how can we reduce our sodium intake but increase our iodine intake?
Natural salt is the product of sustainable agriculture, like magnesium salt or sea salt. It has therefore retained its nutritional qualities, thanks to its natural richness in minerals. What we call table salt, on the other hand, is in fact an industrial and processed refined salt. Composed of more than 95% sodium chloride, it also contains iodine, fluorine and additives such as sodium aluminosilicate (anti-caking agent E544 containing aluminium).
Read also: The dangers of food additives
The problem with industrial salt is the wrong balance in the quantities of mineral salts. We should get three doses of potassium for only one dose of sodium from salt. However, the dosage tends to be reversed in table salt.
Why a salt-free diet?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a daily salt intake of between 2g and 5g. In France, however, we consume on average between 7g and 10g of salt per day. This over-consumption of sodium affects almost 90% of the population, while 77% do not consume enough potassium, according to a 2014 study. This is why the National Nutrition and Health Programmes have put the reduction of salt intake at the heart of their actions.
A low-salt diet, if carried out under the supervision of a doctor, has been shown to lead to weight loss, improved heart health and lower blood pressure.
How to go on a salt-free diet?
Salty foods to avoid
Eating is a pleasure, so how can you say goodbye to bread, cold cuts or cheese? It may be painful to deprive yourself, but you will see that you can enjoy yourself without abusing these foods. The trick is not to stop eating these dishes completely, but to limit them.
As for ready-made meals, so convenient when you don't have time to cook, they are the worst solutions when you want to start a salt-free diet. However, you will see that home-made dishes, prepared with love, are not necessarily ideal solutions.
One last piece of advice for the road: buy the most natural ingredients possible: the more processed they are, the worse they taste. Check the labels on your purchases for sodium content.
Foods allowed in the low-salt diet
For an effective salt-free diet, it is best to focus on fruits and vegetables rich in potassium, such as bananas, avocados, spinach, broccoli, white beans and sweet potatoes. You can, and should, eat yoghurt, if possible lacto-fermented.
If you want to add a little extra flavour to your dishes, don't throw yourself on the table salt. Instead, try spices and herbs such as turmeric, basil or garlic. There are also good salts, such as pink Himalayan salt, the best known natural salt, which is recommended for salt-free diets. Fake salts", or diet salts, can eventually replace sodium on your plate. This is actually potassium chloride, with additives, so it is not natural. Do you know gomasio? This Japanese condiment mixes a small amount of salt with roasted and then ground sesame seeds and gives a little roasted hazelnut taste to your dishes. It is rich in protein, B vitamins and minerals.
Salt-free diet and cortisone
Sodium retains water in our cells. Corticosteroids promote the absorption of sodium. To avoid water retention, it is best to follow a fairly strict salt-free diet if you are taking a cortisone-based treatment.
5 falsehoods about salt
We will now check that you have followed our presentation on salt. On the board, everyone.
- You can stop using salt completely
INTOX. Salt, sodium or potassium, contributes to the balance of the body's fluids. It facilitates the circulation of nerve impulses and intracellular exchanges. It is especially necessary for the maintenance of the thyroid. To go without salt would cause serious deficiencies.
- For a salt-free diet, just avoid table salt
INTOX. We consume between 3 and 5 times too much salt per day, but this excess salt does not only come from our table salt. Industrial and supermarket foodstuffs in particular are full of salt supplements, additives and flavour enhancers such as glutamates. Even sweet pastries and some medicines contain them. To reduce your sodium levels, you need to relearn how to consume, cook and eat. Give preference to natural foods in particular.
- The secret of a low-sodium diet is false salt
INTOX. Fake salt, or diet salt, contains potassium chloride, another electrolyte that could cause heart problems in large doses. In addition, it is packed with lots of additives to ensure preservation and taste. Not a great alternative.
- Everyone reacts the same way to salt
INTOX. The regulatory role of our kidneys makes us want to go to the toilet when we consume too much salt. However, certain situations or conditions alter this natural alarm. Obese people, in particular, are more prone to high blood pressure, as are pregnant women. In people over 65 years of age, the water and sodium balance also becomes much more fragile and these individuals no longer eliminate enough sodium through the urine.
- Healthy products and home-made meals are better
INTOX. Even foods that seem healthy to us can be high in salt: bran cereals, smoked salmon, canned tomatoes, etc. It is not enough for the ingredients to be labelled as healthy, but they should be chosen as fresh as possible. In addition, home-cooked meals or restaurant meals are often accompanied by high-salt sauces or creams, and pasta, seafood and even meat contain a lot of salt.
A salt-free diet is beneficial for your cardiovascular and cerebral health. In France, we consume too much sodium compared to the recommendations and if a little salt is necessary, too much salt is dangerous for the body. Discover also the benefits of reducing sugar on our health.