Humans have a colourful history with salt. In ancient times, it was as valuable as gold for its preservation qualities and in some civilisations a form of currency, creating and destroying empires in their pursuit of it.
Once celebrated and central to a civilisation’s survival, today salt is a silent killer. High blood pressure caused by our excess consumption of salt accounts for about half or all strokes, heart disease and chronic disease deaths.
How did our desire for salt get us here? We got efficient in obtaining it and careless in our use of it. And, we got confused by it.
There are many myths or untruths about salt that have developed over the generations. And there are some that have manifested today that have contributed to our excess intake – and our unhealthy relationship with salt.
These truths below will help you sort out the fact from fiction.
Untruth 1: I’m using Himalayan pink salt or sea salt, which are much healthier than table salt.
Though these trendy salts look pretty, apart from a few trace minerals, they have no additional nutritional value to table salt. They still add to your daily salt intake, which can be bad for your health when you consume too much.
Untruth 2: Salt is a natural product and I need it for good health.
Having a small amount of salt in your diet is important, but overloading on salt is dangerous and can put you at risk of serious health conditions like heart and kidney disease.
Salt is naturally found in most foods we eat, but when added to foods, particularly processed; it’s often above natural occurring levels. Having such high amounts of salt has negative impacts on our health.
Untruth 3: I’m not having too much salt because I don’t add it to my meals.
This can be untrue, as most of our salt intake is hidden in processed foods like cereals, breads, cheese and deli meats. To minimise salt intake, minimise processed foods and eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Untruth 4: If it’s high in salt I’ll be able to taste it.
Even some mild or bland tasting foods can be high in salt, even if you can’t taste it.
Breads and some cereals may not taste very salty but are really high in salt. You can’t trust your tastebuds. Read the label wherever possible.
Untruth 5: It’s the sugar I have to worry about in sweet treats.
It’s high in sugar, so it can’t be high in salt, right? Unfortunately, many sweet foods like donuts, muffins or pancakes are high in salt as well as sugar. Sugar’s not the only white additive you need to be wary of.
Untruth 6: I live a very active lifestyle and so do my kids. Eating salt prevents and/or eases any muscles cramps.
Living an active lifestyle is something we encourage. But unless you are exercising intensely, like competing in a triathlon, eating a usual meal or snack after exercising and rehydrating with water is a perfectly acceptable way to replace any electrolytes, including salt.
A healthy snack and some water is all the refuelling active kids need too!
Untruth 7: I’m young. It’s only the elderly or unwell that have to worry.
Age is not an issue when it comes to the negative effects salt can have on your health. Excess salt consumption can predispose anyone, children and young adults included, to a range of serious health conditions like high blood pressure and heart and kidney disease.
Untruth 8: I’d feel some symptoms if I was consuming too much salt.
One in four Victorians have high blood pressure and many of them do not even know it because they feel well and are not showing any signs or symptoms. The only way to really know is to visit your doctor. High blood pressure accounts for half of all strokes, heart disease and chronic kidney disease deaths.