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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Over the Shoulder or Into the Trash?

Hello everyone! Thank you once again for giving me the day off was another long one! This is going to be my busiest weekend in a while and I had to prepare for it.

I'm sure we were all given a lesson on superstition when we were children when it came to spilling salt: If you spill it, you have to toss some over your left shoulder to rectify the problem. Where did this come from you ask? Ever seen the painting of the last supper? In that painting, Judas had knocked the salt over with his arm as he moved into posing position. Since Judas is known as the betrayer of Jesus, spilling salt is linked with betrayal, lies, or evil. According to superstition, the only way to fix the situation is to throw salt over your left shoulder, as that is where the "devil" sits and the salt will cause him to go blind instead of allowing him to take over your thoughts with evil ideas. Click here for more fun facts about superstitions.

There are many different types of salt available for consumption. Salt enhances the taste of meats, baked goods, etc. and keeps food fresh. Its health benefits include balancing the pH level of blood, helps maintain the correct amount of bodily fluids, regulates blood pressure, and helps transmit signals from the nerves to the brain. It is the small amount of potassium and magnesium found in unrefined salts that helps balance the fluids in the body and send the nerve signals back and forth to/from the brain. Click here for more about the advantages of salt for the body. Of course, salt is only beneficial when consumed in accordance with the recommended amount per day: 1 teaspoon of table salt. Yes, ONE teaspoon! That's the small "t" on those measuring spoons. That equals out to about 2,300mg of sodium per day. If you are eating processed foods or eating out at restaurants all day, you are definitely eating more than one teaspoon throughout your day!

On to the bad news...I'm sure most of you have heard that too much salt is bad for the heart (which is true, as it increases blood pressure which over time can lead to strokes, heart failure or disease), but did you know that it's also bad for the kidneys? Who knew that one of the main functions of the kidneys is to balance sodium levels in the body? That is why doctors always say to drink enough water in order to help your kidneys flush out the waste (i.e. extra sodium) and to stay away from soda if you have kidney problems. 

Did you also know that consuming too much sodium can lead to weight gain? Although healthy levels of sodium help balance fluid levels in the body, too much of a good thing is nothing but bad news. Extra sodium in the body causes fluid retention, leading to an increased need of potassium and magnesium which helps break down the fluids. Although potassium and magnesium can be found in unrefined salt, there is not enough in each serving alone to balance out the sodium being consumed. Oddly enough, the solution to this problem is to add more fluid to the body through the consumption of water (in order to flush the extra sodium out) and a decrease in sodium intake.

Lastly, salt (other than kosher salt) contains iodine which began being added in 1995 as the World Health Assembly's way of preventing iodine deficiency disease in animals and humans (Click here for the source of this information). The problem is that most people and/or animals get enough iodine from their diets already, and adding iodized salt to the diet as well leads to over consumption of it. Since most iodine is stored in the thyroid gland, over consumption of it can lead to hormone imbalances (causing weight gain and issues with the immune system).

When eating out at a restaurant, one must be careful when ordering seasoned foods, as most of these foods are cooked with sodium and then seasoned again with it after. If eating Mexican food, be aware that Latin-American cuisine is notorious for being over-salted. Also, if you are traveling to Europe, keep in mind that Europeans have a taste preference for salty foods rather than sugary foods (When I went to Italy, it literally felt like my tongue was burning for the first few days due to the increased amount of sodium in the food).

So, the next time you reach for that table salt for a bit of added flavor, think about giving your body a break and add some lemon or lime juice, fresh herbs, diced onions, spices, or balsamic vinaigrette instead. Your body will thank you.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow!

*Disclaimer: All of the information provided here is the opinion of the author after thorough research of medical surveys, medical reports, and medical/government web site information. It has not been reviewed by a medical professional and results cannot be guaranteed by the author. Consult with your doctor before planning any diet or fitness changes.

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