It is often said that we eat too much salt. And it is true that excessive consumption can lead to an increase in blood pressure, but also kidney problems and osteoporosis. There are indications that it could be linked to stomach cancer.

However, salt (sodium chloride) is our main source of sodium. So, while this mineral is harmful when consumed in excess, it is also essential for our bodies. We need it to regulate our blood pressure and water balance (in conjunction with potassium) and keep our muscles and nerve cells functioning properly.

The CDC’s recommendations

In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends less than 2,300 mg of salt per day for people under 50 and  less than 1,500 mg per day for people over 50. However, a survey conducted by the CDC found that between 2003 and 2010, Americans consumed on average 3,200 mg of salt per day.

Sweet and savory snacks, preserves, ready-to-eat meals and sauces, but also bread, processed meat and fish products and cheese contain a lot of salt. And this of course also applies to the condiments and spices that we use to improve the taste of our foods. In fact, barely 15-20% of our salt intake comes from the salt shaker.

Potassium and sodium

But we must add a nuance: the problem does not come only from the amount of sodium we absorb. Our potassium intake is also an important factor.

Potassium is the opposite of sodium in that it increases urinary sodium excretion and thus counteracts its negative effects. The ideal sodium – potassium ratio is between 1.75 and 2.35. This means that we need to absorb at least as much, but better still almost twice as much potassium as sodium to keep our blood pressure and water regulation under control.

Potassium is mainly supplied by fruits and vegetables. It is found in particular in soybeans, almonds, hazelnuts, watercress, spinach, avocados, white beans, mushrooms, bananas, beets, carrots and watercress. Potassium is also present in salmon and tuna.

Nevertheless, people with kidney problems should limit their potassium intake and we should all drink enough water (1.5L per day is recommended) so as not to strain the kidneys and help them in their elimination of excess salt (sodium).

It’s in the genes

Studies indicate that 10-20% of the population is (very) sensitive to salt due to genetic peculiarities, and excessive consumption can contribute to the development and strengthening of high blood pressure. For these people, limiting salt is an important dietary rule and, of course, patients with other cardiovascular or heart disease should also watch their salt intake.

Should eliminate salt from your diet

Too much is too much, but too little salt is also harmful to our health. A salt deficiency can be harmful to the heart. In addition, this situation increases the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Indeed, a study conducted in Belgium observed little difference, in terms of cardiovascular risk, between healthy adults who consume 2.5, 5 or 10 g of salt per day. Those who suffer from high blood pressure should limit their intake, without going below a too low threshold.

If we eat less carbohydrates, we need more salt

If you reduce your intake of carbohydrates (sugars) with the intention of losing a few pounds, you will start burning your glycogen (a form of carbohydrate stored in the liver and muscles) and your fat reserves. This will lead to a loss of weight. But at the same time, this combustion accelerates the elimination by the body of sodium (and water). This is why it is important to absorb enough salt (possibly 1 or 2g more).

In this context, high-salt ingredients like bouillon cubes (preferably without glutamate) as a seasoning in making soup and as a replacement for kitchen salt are certainly not a deadly sin or an exaggeration. But… it is important that you know that you are consuming around 2-3g of salt per 25cl serving of soup when using one of these cubes.

Erica Delaney

An experienced nurse, Erica focuses on subjects related to pregnancy and infant health. She enjoys dancing and playing the piano in her free time.