The first two installments of this series of newsletters have dealt with the importance of salt in health and disease, and how salt has been critical in the preservation of food plus allowing man to travel across continents and seas (see April and May issues of "Second Wind").
Salt is almost ubiquitous in our diet. Sodium is the key part of salt that we must control. Baking soda in sodium bicarbonate and bottled drinks such as Perrier, which contains sodium sulphate, has a lot of sodium that must be considered. The component of salt known as "sodium" is critically important to the maintenance of health and the prevention and management of disease.
Don't trust nutritionists or dietitians to advise you about salt. Surprisingly, many know very little about it. Also don't trust a low salt diet given in a hospital. It can be extremely salty because of lack of information on the part of the nutritionist and all the way down to the preparation staff.
Normal salt requirements are somewhere between above 500 mg and 1000 mg per day. The Western diet commonly contains 5-6 grams of salt, which is quite excessive for normal needs. The Japanese consume 10 grams of salt daily. There are 10 grams of salt in a large dill pickle! Sauerkraut is loaded with grams of sodium. Most soups have at least a gram of sodium. All prepared foods have salt, such as lunchmeats, condiments, i.e., mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise. Even bread, cereals, and milk contain significant sodium. Ham, beans and most cheeses are loaded with sodium. Doritos, Fritos, potato chips, salted nuts, etc. are other places where salt is highly unnecessary. Even baby food contains salt. This is because mothers taste the food and feel that it is bland without salt. More on salt in the final installment.
I'll be in touch next month.
Thomas Petty, MD
Professor of Medicine,
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Snowdrift Pulmonary Conference