Every day I talk to people who are trying to cut back on salt. They want to try to reduce their blood pressure and cut heart disease risk.
But when it comes to your bones do you have to follow a low-salt diet?
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends a low-salt diet for your bones. But a study from the Medical College of Georgia now suggests cutting down on salt won’t help your bones. In fact, you may need a little salt for strong bones.[i] Let me explain…
Doctors at MCG thought that high sodium would cause weak bones. They reasoned that sodium and calcium are both stored in the bone. And sodium increases calcium excretion.
So they looked at 11 years of data on nearly 70,000 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative. They had fracture data on all the women. They also had bone mineral density studies on about 4,400 of the women.
Their results indicated that salt intake was not a major factor in bone health. They found no link between sodium intake and bone mineral density anywhere in the body or with fractures rates. In fact, they found a higher salt diet might be linked with stronger bones, higher bone mineral density, and fewer hip fractures.
The researchers aren’t sure why a low-salt diet doesn’t seem to benefit bones. They suggested that when sodium levels drop the body’s “renin-antiotensin-aldosterone system” (RAAS) gets activated. The RAAS is a hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance.[ii] When it gets activated it increases bone resorption or breakdown.
We need more studies on this topic. In the meantime, it looks like salt is not so bad for your bones.
In fact, other studies show a low-salt diet might lead to more broken bones. Mild sodium deficiency in older people has been linked with walking problems, attention deficits, and a much higher rate of falls.[iii] Low salt levels can also lead to increased fractures among elderly patients in hospitals.[iv]
I don’t look at salt like the enemy. We would all die without it. That’s why it’s in all your body fluids from blood to lymph to sweat and tears.
And the sodium in salt is an essential mineral. It helps maintain the balance of fluids in your body. It transmits nerve impulses and stimulates your muscles to contract and relax. Too little sodium can lead to muscle cramps, dehydration, weakness and nausea.
For heart health the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans say you should get less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. That’s about one teaspoon of table salt per day.
But you don’t want to go too low… Studies show that high sodium levels (more than 6,000 mg per day) were linked to more cardiovascular events. But so were sodium levels below 2,500 mg per day.[v]
In other words, there’s a safe range. For most people it’s from 2,500 to 5,000 mg of sodium per day.
The easiest way to make sure you don’t go over safe limits is to stop eating processed foods.
Most people get over 75% of their sodium from restaurant meals and processed foods like bread, cereals, frozen meals, cured meats, pizza, salty snacks, and canned soups.
Instead, choose fresh whole foods rich in healthy sodium. They include meats, eggs, seafood, seaweed, beets, turnips, Swiss chard, spinach and parsley.
According to Paul Pitchford in his book “Healing with Whole Foods,” typical refined table salt is about 99.5% sodium chloride. The rest is chemicals to prevent caking, potassium iodide to prevent goiters, and sugar to stabilize the iodine. It may also contain MSG.
But unrefined sea salt has 40 to 57 percent less sodium than table salt. In addition, it contains up to 60 trace minerals which, according to Pitchford, give it a profile most similar to that of our own blood. It contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, copper, iron and zinc. Your body uses those minerals to build bones, and form vitamins, enzymes and proteins.
It retains its natural color of grey, pink, yellow, brown, etc., depending on its mineral content.
I like Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, or Redmond Real Salt. You can find them at good quality supermarkets or on the internet.
Thanks for reading my post.
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