You hear a lot about the negative effects of a high-sodium diet, but you need a certain amount of salt in your bloodstream just to stay alive. You need sodium to:
- Regulate blood pressure at the perfect rate.
- Maintain healthy nerve function
- Maintain a healthy fluid balance
- Preserve cell function
- Balance other minerals
- Maintain healthy muscle function
However, too much sodium can disrupt this balance. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 2,300 mg daily for most adults. Research shows consuming too much sodium by eating a salt-rich diet can disrupt “endothelial function,” the way blood vessels respond to stress. Poor endothelial function can cause a rise in blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Poor endothelial function can also contribute to strokes and heart attacks by increasing the risk of blood clots.
That’s why healthcare providers recommend that people with hypertension and cardiovascular disease reduce their salt intake. However, not everyone has blood pressure that responds to a reduction in sodium. There are varying degrees of sodium sensitivity. Around 10% of the population is sodium sensitive, meaning their blood pressure is affected by the sodium content of their diet.
But there are other concerns with eating a high-sodium diet. Studies show a high-salt diet increases the risk of stomach cancer. For example, the Japanese have a high rate of stomach cancer and their high-sodium diet and diet that includes preserved foods seems to play a role.
A High-Sodium Diet May Contribute to Bone Loss
Plus, consuming too much sodium disrupts healthy calcium balance. To remove sodium from your body, calcium from bones assists the release of excess sodium into the urine. Around 10 million people in the United States have osteoporosis and a high-sodium diet can contribute to the problem by causing more calcium release from bones to help manage the excess sodium.
At the very least, the amount of sodium most people consume is too high. One way to reduce sodium intake is to replace table salt with lite salt. But is that a smart idea?
What Is Lite Salt?
Lite salt is a combination of common table salt (sodium chloride) and potassium chloride. Potassium chloride doesn’t taste salty but when you mix it with sodium chloride, it has a salty flavor and a lower sodium content. It’s a way to get the taste of salt while consuming less sodium.
Lite salt has half the sodium of regular table salt since it contains roughly equal quantities of sodium and potassium chloride. However, some brands have a ratio of sodium chloride to potassium chloride of 67% to 33%. Lite salts with this ratio may taste better because they contain more sodium relative to 50%-50% lite salt but you’ll also consume more sodium.
Both sodium and potassium are electrolytes but each as a different effect on your body. While sodium can disrupt blood vessel function, cause fluid retention, and cause a rise in blood pressure, potassium helps counter the negative effects of sodium and helps with blood pressure control. Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium and help to lower blood pressure. One reason is their high potassium content.
How to Use Lite Salt
You can use lite salt in any recipe that calls for regular table salt and it will have less sodium per teaspoon. It’s an option if you want to reduce your sodium intake without giving up the taste of salt. For example, some people use lite salt on popcorn or grilled vegetables or in recipes.
One precaution. If you have reduced kidney function, you should avoid consuming large quantities of potassium without consulting your doctor, as you may not be able to clear potassium from your body as easily. Also, some medications can cause your body to hold on to more potassium. So, talk to your doctor before using any type of potassium-based salt.
Other Ways to Cut Back on Salt
There are other ways to reduce your sodium intake. One of the simplest is to slowly reduce the amount of salt in your diet and let your taste buds adapt to less sodium. After a few weeks of doing this, you’ll crave salt less and enjoy foods in a more natural state. You may discover that you don’t need to use added salt at all. Let’s look at some other ways to reduce salt in your diet without sacrificing taste:
- Avoid ultra-processed and packaged foods.
- Substitute spices for the salt you add to recipes
- Check food labels for the sodium content of foods you buy
- Avoid canned foods as they’re often high in salt
- Make your own sauces instead of canned sauces
- Avoid eating at restaurants. Most of the offerings are high in sodium
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how lite salt differs from regular salt. It’s a way to get the taste of salt without the high sodium content. Still, lite salt won’t be effective if you see it as a license to use more of it. It’s still best to wean your taste buds off the taste of salt and enjoy foods more in their natural state.
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