Is salt good for you?

  • Some simple questions to get you started..
  • The truth about salt
  • A plea for honesty and a bit more help

Let me ask you three simple questions;

  1. Can you be trusted to wake up every day and decide what you would like to eat?
  2. Are you able to tell the difference between lettuce and lard?
  3. Do you like to vary your diet, making sure that you avoid only eating chips?

If you answered no to any of the above then maybe I have misjudged you.

I am well aware that the UK has a problem with our diet – how could I not when one in four UK adults, and one in ten of our children are classed as obese.

This means that we are the fatties of Europe.
These statistics are the products of a failure of common sense compounded by confusing information from health advisers, watchdogs and governments.

If our media deserve a pasting then it should also be for their flagrant disregard of the truth about health and well being.

Mind you, if they did there would be no need for the likes of me, would there!

The Nanny State and Salt

As Lara passed me the newspaper the other day I saw her cringe in anticipation of my response to the headline ‘Cutting back on salt does not make you healthier’.

My gast was flabbered, and my dander was raised to say the very least.

I am getting pretty fed up with lazy and incompetent reporting such as this.

Much more I am deeply concerned about how this type of news is being played out.

Our media seems to swing from one extreme to the other, and never comes to rest in the common sense middle ground. It is all about the shock factor rather than the truth.

In one newspaper alone their headlines have run from digestive biscuits having too much salt in them; the ‘fact’ that salt is as addictive as cocaine to the latest about there being no link between low salt diets and health.

Anybody confused?

The last story came from research completed by a team from Exeter University, who found that a decrease in dietary salt does not prevent heart attacks & strokes; in fact they concluded that such a reduction could actually harm anyone suffering from a heart condition.

Which on the face of it makes for a big story doesn’t it?

As expected anti-salt lobby has been quick to condemn this information saying that the research was flawed.

There is a lot more to this story though, although I suspect no-one is going to tell it.

When you have PR savvy spokespeople with a vested interest it will only be the headline grabbing stuff that they say which will make the news.

Can we all just stop it. What we want is reliable, accurate and useful advice – are we asking too much?

The TRUTH about dietary salt

The first truth is the real big one. We NEED salt in our diet.

Often overlooked in the scramble to make a point is the fact that Sodium Chloride is a basic requirement for several major functions in our bodies, plus the traces of iodine, magnesium and calcium contained in the mineral are also important for us.

  • The digestive acid in our stomachs is based on chlorine, thus salt helps us break down our food.
  • Too little salt in our diet weakens teeth & bones.
  • Our hearts need salt to help regulate the rhythm, as well as it helping to reduce blood pressure.
  • Salt is vital to establish effective fluid dynamics in our tissues, muscles and kidneys.

The problem isn’t about having salt in our diet it’s the way we CONSUME it.

I like nothing more than some freshly boiled new potatoes straight from the garden with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of magnesium rich salt over them.

Farm fresh new season lamb could have no more perfect bed fellow in my book.

The thing is, I DO put salt on them, but that is the only salt I use in the meal. I am in control of what I have eaten, I know where it all came from and how it was prepared.

Compare this with a supermarket bought ready meal that uses salt to create taste and texture. An expensive product supported by glossy advertising and a prominent position in the store designed to drive sales.

Just how much salt and preservatives are in this meal? Just how much control does a busy parent have over the diet she is giving her kids?

Mum might go to Iceland, but she is feeding her kids on a salt mine. A very profitable salt mine.

Profits that go to the manufacturer, the retailer and the government in taxes.

Now here’s the real truth, our ‘Nanny State’ tells us not to eat too much salt yet won’t force corporate food organisations to remove the stuff from ready meals. They are allowed to lie and mislead us – common sense just doesn’t stand a chance.

And guess what…salt is not the ONLY factor in this story. Those of us who do follow a low salt diet tend to exercise more, eat less fat and more fruit.

This was the main finding of the Exeter University research.

The story was never about the level of salt on its own, but the fact that a high salt diet tends to go hand in hand with poor quality nutrition, an over reliance on alcohol and a higher incidence of smoking.

Salt in diet is just one element of good health.

We all know that, and always have.

What we need is for salt to be taken out of junk food (if we can’t get junk food taken off of the shelves), our children to be taught how to cook healthy meals and for simple, honest advice to be given.

Is that too much to ask?