MythInformation Monday – Myth #3


I don’t eat salt.

It’s said in the most matter of fact way.

Most who live in that fairytale world have no clue how much salt they actually consume.  What’s more, even fewer have any idea that “salt” is a NECESSARY part of our daily life.

Even if you were to make every effort to reduce your sodium intake by ridding your diet of EVERY processed or refined food out there (imagine a world with no pizza, hot dogs, bacon or pickles) you would still be consuming salt.  And, for the record, even the supposedly super healthy diet groups like Weight Watcher’s prepared foods have ALOT of salt in them.  Though with a little investigation you find this interesting little piece they wrote about the different types of salt.  Not surprisingly, it too, is full of half truths and mythinformation.

So, if we get rid of all of the processed foods in the world and only eat fresh, natural ingredients and don’t use a single grain of salt to cook with, where does the sodium in our diet come from?

Beets (98mg/1 cup)

Beet Greens (76mg/1 cup)

Butter (117mg/1 Tablespoon)

Carrot juice (105mg/cup)

Celery (106mg/cup)

Cheese, Blue (396mg/oz.)

Cheese, Cottage (910mg/1 cup)

Cheese, Feta (316 mg/1 oz.)

Cheese, Parmesan (454mg/1 oz.)

Cheese, Roquefort (513mg/1 oz.)

Kelp (429mg/2 Tablespoons)

Goat milk (122mg/ 1 cup)

Milk, Buttermilk (257 mg/ 1 cup)

Beef (18-20 mg/ 1 ounce)

Pork (15-20 mg/ 1 ounce)

Chicken (15-22 mg/ 1 ounce)

Turkey (15-22 mg/ 1 ounce)

Salmon & Whitefish (20 mg/ 1 ounce)

Shellfish (16mg/ 1 ounce)

Most of the above are close approximations and not to be taken as hard and fast rules.  The point is to clearly illustrate that you can NEVER remove all sodium from your diet!  Nor would you want to try!  Your body needs that sodium to function properly.

Why?  (Skip the next three paragraphs if you prefer not to read from our Chemistry 101 textbook today.)

Sodium and potassium are essential dietary minerals and electrolytes, meaning that they dissociate into ions (charged particles) in solution, making them capable of conducting electricity. Normal body functioning depends on the right regulation of sodium and potassium both inside and outside of cells.

Sodium is the principal ion in the fluid outside of cells, while potassium is the principal ion in the fluid inside of cells. Sodium concentrations are more than ten times lower inside than outside cells, and potassium concentrations are about 30 times higher inside than outside cells. The concentration differences between potassium and sodium across cell membranes create an electrochemical gradient known as the membrane potential. A large portion of energy in the body is dedicated to maintaining sodium/potassium concentration gradients, underscoring the importance of the balance between sodium and potassium in sustaining life. Tight control of cell membrane potential is critical for heart function, as well as nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction.

In Western industrialized countries, the daily intake of sodium chloride (salt) is about three times higher than the daily intake of potassium. The balance or equilibrium so necessary for these minerals is not achievable through the typical dietary choices of Westerners.

It’s part of the bio-mechanical process.  Without it muscle function will cease to exist.  Sodium causes the various muscles in your body to contract when commanded by the brain.  However, when there is an imbalance between sodium and potassium in the body  (too much sodium and too little potassium) cramping will occur.  Think about the dehydrated or electrolyte depleted runners in a marathon.  That cramping occurs because of a lack of potassium in the system.  (remember that the next time a charlie horse in your calf throws you out of bed in the middle of the night!)

Interestingly, all of the foods listed above have a potassium content that is 5-15 times the sodium content. They are safe, healthy choices for trying to maintain the sodium – potassium balance.

Bottom line, eating salt is UNAVOIDABLE.  And that’s a good thing.  Can you imagine a world full of limp muscled blobs that couldn’t accomplish anything because they refused to eat salt?

So the next time you hear someone say, “I don’t eat any salt” you can quietly think to yourself the same thing we do…

“That can’t be true because your sodium-potassium pump is working just fine… you’re still talking!”

But instead we just smile and say, “Ok… you have a nice day!”