Stacy is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). She received a Master's in Dietetics from the University of Oklahoma.
How Salt Affects Bloat and Blood Pressure
Sodium and potassium—the primary minerals contained in various types of salt—regulate fluid balance in the body. Sodium raises blood pressure and increases fluid retention (bloat); potassium does the opposite. Maintaining a balance of both minerals is essential for optimal health. Too much or too little of either, and there are health consequences, ranging in severity, depending on the level of excess or deficiency.
(For an in-depth explanation of the different types of salt, see the section below called What about all those other kinds of salt? What's the difference?.)
Sodium-Potassium Balance In 3 Easy Steps
- Toss a package of Lite Salt, or a comparable product, in your shopping cart.
- Fill the remainder of the cart with things labeled "No Salt Added", or simply have no salt added, like an apple or a potato. Don't make this complicated. (The complicated section is next.)
- Add your Lite Salt at home. Use the amount indicated in recipes, shake sparingly at the table, and bask in the zen of your new body balance.
⚠️ Blood Pressure Medication Warning ⚠️
If you are taking medication for high blood pressure, you need to talk to your medical provider before switching to Lite Salt, Salt Substitute, or a comparable potassium-containing product. Potassium supplements and drugs that help the body "hold onto" potassium are common treatments for high blood pressure. Essentially, you could inadvertently "double-up" on potassium, and your blood pressure could get dangerously low.
ARGH! I Can't Find a "No Salt Added" Marinara!
Making your own sauce from scratch is an obvious solution, but isn't always realistic. Meals that are quick and easy to prepare fit better into busy schedules. Fortunately, there are ways to utilize convenience products without overloading on sodium. One method is to shop for products that have close to one milligram of sodium for every calorie; think Sodium < or = kcal when looking at the nutrition label. (Most people eat between 1500 and 2500kcal daily—translating to roughly 1500 to 2500mg of Sodium daily—within range of the World Health Organization recommendation, less than 2g or 2000mg.)
Alternatively, you can consider your meal as a whole. For example, you have a jar of salty sauce. Dilute it with a can of "No Salt Added" diced tomatoes. Don't add salt to your pasta water. Pair it with a salad. Produce doesn't have added salt, and neither does a simple oil and vinegar dressing. Essentially, you can compensate for a salty food item by pairing it wisely.
Shopping and meal planning may seem difficult and time-consuming as first. But, you only have to label read once—then you know which products are the lowest in sodium —and you simply toss those items into your cart.
What About All Those Other Kinds of Salt? What's the Difference?
There are three basic groups of commercial salt products available; those composed primarily of sodium chloride, those composed primarily of potassium chloride, and those that are a blend of both.
The vast majority of products belong to the first group, primarily sodium chloride. Many products have trace amounts of other minerals that occur naturally, or have been added during processing. Those minerals account for varying hues, (pink and black), provide slight variances in flavor, (sea salt), or have been added for thyroid health, (iodized salt). Texture can also vary: fine, coarse, flake and rock.
Products labeled "Salt Substitutes" constitute the second group, primarily potassium chloride. They contain no sodium chloride, are usually iodized, and have a metallic flavor some find offensive. NoSalt, Nu-Salt and Morton's Salt Substitute fall into this category. Fortunately, the aforementioned metallic flavor is nicely tempered by combining potassium chloride with sodium chloride.
Which brings us to the third group, blends. Usually iodized, and mixed to contain half the standard amount of sodium, blends can be used just as one would use standard iodized table salt. Most manufactured foods labeled "Low-Sodium" or "Reduced-Sodium" contain a blend; easily spotted by a quick glance at the potassium content on the nutrition label. If it is anywhere close to the sodium content, then a blend has been used. LoSalt and Morton's Lite Salt are common blends, easily found in neighborhood grocery stores.
A Note About Sea Salt
When it comes to salt shopping and label reading, the term "Sea Salt" is definitely the most confusing. Products will list sea salt as an ingredient and have a nutrition label that indicates a blend. Huh? The sodium chloride in the product likely came from a seawater evaporation pond instead of a mine. This makes no difference at all as far as your body, and its chemical response is concerned. Currently, there is a perception that sea salt is "healthier," so the manufacturer is simply riding that bandwagon.
- Salt - Wikipedia
Wikipedia contributors. "Salt." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 Oct. 2017. Web. 26 Oct. 2017.
- Salt substitute - Wikipedia
Wikipedia contributors. "Salt substitute." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 Jun. 2017. Web. 26 Oct. 2017.
- World Health Organization - Sodium Recommendations
WHO. Guideline: Sodium intake for adults and children. Geneva, World Health Organization (WHO), 2012.
© 2017 Stacy Becker
Tom Lohr from Magdalena, NM on October 26, 2017:
Probably the best explanation of salt I have ever read. I had no idea about the differences. Thanks for setting us straight.
Beth on October 25, 2017: