October is a month known for sweaters, pumpkins and fall leaves. It is also Breast Cancer Awareness month, a time when we rally around survivors, family, friends and remember those who lost their battle to the most common form of female cancer. So what do we need to be aware of?
We have long been warned about the dangers of sodium, including the frightening risks of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. But according to a new report commissioned by the Institute of Medicine under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these warnings may be misguided.
Moderation in all things is wise, but according to the expert panel, there is no need to limit sodium beyond about 2,300 milligrams a day. As reported by the New York Times, chairman of the committee Dr. Brian L. Strom confirmed, “As you go below the 2,300 mark, there is an absence of data in terms of benefit and there begin to be suggestions in subgroup populations about potential harms.” These “potential harms” include increased rate of heart attacks and risk of death – exactly counter to what was previously believed!
The average daily intake of sodium in America is roughly 3,400 milligrams, equivalent to about 1.5 teaspoons of salt. US dietary guidelines have traditionally encouraged people to aim for 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. To put that in perspective, if your day’s eating included two eggs for breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, yogurt and an apple as a snack, salmon and rice for dinner, and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert (and you haven’t added any salt, sauces, or toppings), you would have only consumed just under 800 milligrams of sodium. Once you start piling on fast food, condiments, processed snacks and the like, that number will easily spike up. One cup of canned chicken noodle soup has over 1,100 milligrams of sodium…So you can see our point.
If there’s no need to heavily limit sodium anyways, though, then what’s keeping us from an all-out salt binge? The first question on our minds was: are there any conflicts of interest in this report? If the organization sponsoring the panel were simultaneously receiving funding from Coke, say, or a fast food corporation, we would have cause to be skeptical. The Institute of Medicine, however, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, and their mission is to provide the most rigorous and unbiased health information possible.
Either way, this new information about sodium should not act as an open invitation to load your plate with table salt. If you maintain a healthy, balanced diet, then continue doing whatever you’re doing! If you’ve been stressing about sodium all your life, maybe relax a bit on that and focus more on eating wholesome food that fills and nourishes you. If you have eating habits you’d like to shake, then stay positive and set some realistic goals for yourself. At the end of the day, healthy eating is easier and a lot more fun than counting this or that.
What do you think of these findings? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!