I have heard arguments for and against the use of salt. Some advocate a salt-free diet; others, no restrictions. Still others advocate sea salt. I am 24 years old, feel very well, and have a family history of high blood pressure. What should I do to stay healthy?
We assume your blood pressure is now normal. But with a family history of high blood pressure (hypertension), you run the risk of developing this problem at some point. It’s good to be aware and proactive.
Preventive strategies against hypertension include the following (and sound remarkably like following the Adventist health message):
Maintain a normal body mass index (measured as the ratio of your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters). The ideal number is between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2.
Remain physically active with at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity daily (do not neglect muscle strength training), or strive for 10,000 steps per day.
Never smoke or use tobacco products.
Do not consume alcohol.
Keep salt (sodium) intake below 2,300 milligrams of salt per day.
The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 2,000 milligrams per day (approximately one teaspoon), and the American Heart Association recommends 1,500 milligrams per day (approximately three quarters of a teaspoon). This is total intake, meaning the salt in food as it is served, and includes also the salt you may choose to add.
Eat a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and nuts, and low in saturated fat.
When we use the word “salt” in the health setting, we’re referring mainly to sodium. Sodium is an essential element for the normal physiological functioning of the body. It is present in every cell and is vital for survival. Eliminating salt will not give better health—it may cause health problems (e.g., Addison’s disease).
Then there is the myth that sea salt is healthier than table salt. This is not true. Other marketing ploys include using desert salt, flavored salt, colored salt— but they all contain similar amounts of sodium, weight for weight.
Beware of processed foods, especially pickled, preserved, dried, and refined foods. These are often high in sodium content, as salt is a preservative. Read the labels and be a discerning consumer for your health’s sake.
There have been numerous debates in the scientific literature with arguments for and against lowering the intake of salt to improve health, and especially to help decrease the overall problem of high blood pressure and improve its treatments and outcomes. Most of the evidence is robust and favors the reduction of salt intake as the best choice. Explore the use of lemon juice and some of the healthy, aromatic herbs to assist you in cutting back your salt intake.
We have been instructed to be the salt of the earth, effectively flavoring the societies in which we live. By God’s grace we may live healthy and balanced lives and share the good news of improved health here on earth and the promise of eternal life to come.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.
Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.