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So have you seen the article in the New York Times that says it might be okay to eat salt again? It seems some recent research is calling into question the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 1,500 milligrams a salt per day. Now on the one hand, this question is almost moot, because it’s nearly impossible to achieve 1,500 milligrams of salt a day and do things like occasionally eat food that has had any processing, eat out once in a while, or you know, live in the modern world. On the other hand, there are some indications that consuming sodium levels as low as 1,500 milligrams per day might actually be harmful. So it probably does merit a second look.
So according to the article, several recent studies have indicated that a sodium level goal of 2,300 might be better than 1,500 milligrams per day. Some of these studies have even indicated that the 1,500 level might actually be dangerous for some people–potentially increasing risk for heart attack and death. The American Heart Association has fired back suggesting that the more recent research has flaws and that they don’t want to confuse people by giving them the message that a little more salt is okay, because you know, people might then go hog wild and eat lots of salt.
And then, near the end of the article is this little gem:
Although the advice to restrict sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day has been enshrined in dietary guidelines, it never came from research on health outcomes, Dr. Strom said. Instead, it is the lowest sodium consumption can go if a person eats enough food to get sufficient calories and nutrients to live on. As for the 2,300-milligram level, that was the highest sodium levels could go before blood pressure began inching up.
Okay. So the advice that has been cemented in stone, that is inevitably printed on that bad, multi-generation photocopied piece of paper handed to every fat person in the universe by their doctor when they go in for a check up or to get that funny looking mole checked out is based on what now? It’s no wonder that we are confused about what to eat. The competing nutritional studies along with the sensationalist, usually premature reporting is enough to give any potential diner whiplash. Eat margarine! No, eat butter! Eat olive oil. Eat nuts. Eat red meat. Don’t eat red meat. Eat fish. But watch out, most of the fish is full of toxins. Eat dairy. Don’t eat dairy. Eat low fat. Eat low carb. Eat only plant-based foods. Plant-based foods are genetically modified and full of pesticides. OMG. Eat my shorts! It’s no wonder that we are going crazy trying to figure out what on earth to have for lunch every day! Add to that the woeful lack of education among GPs and pediatricians about nutrition and you get the typical photocopied sheet of “black coffee, one piece of wheat toast, and one glass of orange juice” advice.
Now all this is not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned about what we eat. But it is to say that nutrition is a very complicated science. And that while we let the scientists duke it out about exactly how many milligrams of this and percentages of that we should consume, maybe we should simply focus on what foods feel good in our bodies and what tastes delicious. I believe our bodies have wisdom, and that we benefit when we learn to listen to what our bodies have to tell us. It may be hard to hear our “smarty-pants inner-selves” amongst all the screaming about “vitamin this” and “mineral that”. But I for one, plan to make the effort. Oh, and would you please pass the salt?
The Fat Chick