The Science Behind Salt Reduction

A doctor holding a sign reading “eat less salt.”

How modern technology can reduce excess sodium without the limitations of traditional salt substitutes.

Key takeaways:

  • Our bodies need salt to function optimally
  • Reducing sodium can be difficult due to its addictive and comforting properties
  • Traditional salt substitutes suffer from flavor and health limitations
  • Modern technology provides better alternatives for salt reduction

Salt’s role as a food preservative and flavor enhancer has ensured its perennial popularity. Our ancestors didn’t understand that they were slowing bacterial growth by depriving microorganisms of their moisture whenever they used salt in a crystalline or salt/brine solution. They just liked the taste. Reducing food spoilage and waste was just a side benefit.

Salt wasn’t easy to find in ancient times either. Our foraging ancestors rarely encountered it in significant quantities, and any site that yielded salt in abundance soon became the source of wealth. Today, of course, salt is everywhere – so much so that we’re desperately searching for ways to cut back on the stuff because it’s harming our health. 

The Western diet in particular is plagued by an excess of sodium. Some foods are saltier than others, with consumer favorites like soups, cold cuts, and pizza being among the worst offenders. Popular drinks like soda, alcohol, and even milk can also contribute to our daily sodium intake. Even condiment packets at some fast-food restaurants (themselves high-sodium risks unless you know how to order carefully) can contain over 800 mg of sodium! 

The prevalence of high-salt diets is taking an immense toll on public health. Excess sodium consumption is a leading cause of hypertension and other cardiovascular-related conditions, including heart attacks and strokes. Too much salt can also worsen diabetes and kidney issues and cause unhealthy weight gain.

The science behind salt cravings

The general scarceness of salt in the past made our brains evolve to react strongly and favorably to sodium wherever we found it. Our ancestors didn’t know (but their bodies did) that many vital physical functions like muscle contraction and relaxation, nerve impulses, and internal mineral and water balance all depended on a certain amount of daily sodium.

This evolutionary imperative accounts for some, but not all, of the science behind salt cravings. Salt reduction can be particularly difficult for people with certain chronic conditions that drive them to consume excessive sodium. There’s also a strong link between emotional eating and salt cravings. Salt itself is comforting for many who feel down or depressed, and so are sodium-heavy comfort snacks like potato chips, fries, and sandwiches.

Unfortunately, depressed people may have hormone imbalances that can cause the body to retain excess sodium consumed from comfort foods, potentially leading to physical health problems that can in turn worsen depression, perpetuating an unhealthy sodium cycle.

Strategies for salt reduction

Breaking free from salt addiction therefore starts with salt awareness. As with any addictive substance, there are two basic ways to beat it: gradual reduction or the “cold turkey” approach. For those with pressing medical needs (or admirable willpower!), it’s necessary or possible to dramatically reduce excess sodium when it has become an unacceptable threat to health and wellbeing.

Those who aren’t pressed by circumstance can slowly reduce sodium by using alternative seasonings and herbs. Making smart choices while grocery shopping and dining out is also a big help. Our quick primer on sodium terminology will give you a better understanding of what to look for at the store.

Salt reduction for different groups

Strictly managing sodium can be a necessity for some ethnic groups. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, has noted greater sodium sensitivity in non-Hispanic Black and Asian populations. And these groups need to be even more acutely aware of their sodium intake than the general population.

Low-salt diets also differ for people dealing with specific health conditions. For example, hyponatremia patients suffer from abnormally low blood sodium. Their diet must be carefully monitored for sodium intake, but that safe level may be higher than for someone with hypertension or salt sensitivity, for whom even a slight tipping of the salt scale can be immediately detrimental.

Salt reduction for people following plant-based diets is a little easier than it is for meat-eaters, provided that vegetarians and vegans eat mostly fresh produce. A diet composed mainly of fries and chips still isn’t healthy, even though it may technically be “vegetarian.” 

That said, managing sodium in meat-based diets does require more effort. Reducing portion sizes will, of course, automatically reduce the amount of sodium consumed, as will adding less salt at the table and scrutinizing ingredient labels. Where labels don’t exist – such as with fresh-sliced meat at a deli counter – ask the server for per-serving sodium information.

For children and adolescents, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following guidelines:

  • Under 1,200 mg for ages 1-3
  • Under 1,500 mg for ages 4-8
  • Under 1,800 mg for ages 9-13
  • Under 2,300 mg for ages 14-18

Again, a safe amount of sodium is case-dependent. Every young person’s limit should be set by their healthcare provider, something that also applies to salt intake for adults and seniors whose general limits are between 1,500 mg and 2,300 mg.

Overcoming challenges in salt reduction

Seasoning your food with other herbs and spices can help you cut back on salt, but the taste adjustment can take some getting used to. Many commercial substitutes, on the other hand, still provide salty flavor, but their downsides tend to outnumber their benefits. Bitter and/or metallic aftertastes are common, and reactions including nausea, headaches, and heart flutters have been attributed to foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG). Coping with taste adaptation takes time, and staying motivated can be hard if you feel salt-deprived. 

This is where MicroSalt®️ shines. Our all-natural microparticle delivers twice the salty flavor of traditional salt crystals without the bitter aftertaste or side effects of salt substitutes – meaning you can start cutting your sodium intake in half while still enjoying the flavors you love. Our table salt shakers and SaltMe®! Potato chips make salt reduction simple, whether you’re at home or on the go. With MicroSalt®️, you’ll never have to compromise on flavor again to follow a lower-sodium diet.

Experience the science of salt reduction with MicroSalt®

Being salt savvy is crucial for our physical and mental well-being, and there’s no smarter way to do it than by joining the MicroSalt® mission. We’re dedicated to making the long-term health benefits of the low-sodium lifestyle much easier and more enjoyable to achieve. Connect with us on our message page or call 1-877-825-0655 to learn more!

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