Salt is Good and Bad

saltLike exercise, salt increases blood circulation. But salt does so chemically. Exercise is hard work, but eating salt is easy; so, wouldn’t it be easier to eat our way to heath than do hard work?

Not so fast. With salt, there’s a hidden price to pay. You need to eat healthy with the salt to extract the benefits. And anyone who both exercises and eats healthy will tell you: eating healthy is harder than exercising. You only have to find a patch of energy for a short daily workout, but finding and preparing healthy food is Sisyphean.

Let’s step back. Research that shows salt is bad does not distinguish between natural and manufactured salts. Furthermore, most people eat most of their salt inside processed foods. Remember, salt stimulates your heart, causing your blood to push with more force. And pushing artificial colors, preservatives, and gunk to delicate capillaries with greater force does greater damage.

On the flip side, using salt to push whole foods gives super-sized benefit. For instance, cocoa can rebuild damaged blood vessels. But cocoa may never reach damaged blood vessels without the extra boost from salt. The reverse is also true: people with cardiovascular damage who eat processed food are pushing extra damage into already-sick capillaries.

Essentially salt is good, or bad. It’s which salt you use, and how you use it.

The last place you would want salt is in processed food, since it amplifies the harmful effects. Thus we should reduce sodium in processed food. However, in doing so, salt will be misunderstood and demonized.

Thus, salt becomes a political issue. We know most people in the general public will eat unhealthy, processed foods—driving up their edible chemical load (ECL)—so it makes sense for public policy to tend toward an anti-sodium stance. But what’s healthiest at the individual level is lowering ECL by eating whole foods with plenty of natural salt.

The final problem is the public messaging has to be simple. It has to be as easy as “smoking is bad”, and you have to repeat this for decades. Although true, the complexity of salt being good—but bad with processed food—won’t be understood.

In the end, it makes sense to reduce sodium in processed foods. We don’t want to amplify the negative effect of the harmful chemicals. Here, it should be easy to ride the current (wrong) public perception that sodium hurts the heart.

What will be hard is coming down on processed salts, which requires a knowledge that natural salt is key to health. Why add hurtful chemicals to heart-healthy salt? Because corporations will, until they can’t. People fear snakes but not slow heart damage from processed salts; governments have to assist with such long-term thinking…or face the public costs of chronic illness.

The middle ground is to reduce sodium in processed foods, and require greater restriction on processed salts. Or, simply allow all-natural salts to advertise as healthy.

The bottom line: natural salt boosts circulation. Which is powerful, if you consume natural foods and herbs.

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