Introduction On April 18th 2013, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges finally reported back on their investigation into obesity. In the full report, which can be found here, they mentioned not just fat, salt and sugar but saturated fat, salt and sugar, 15 times. Their Recommendation 7, out of 10 key recommendations, called for "A ban on advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before 9pm". We've defended saturated fat plenty of times - this article is about salt. Why is salt demonised? What's the difference between salt and sodium? What are the government guidelines on salt and are they as misguided as the guidelines on (saturated) fat? Definitions & RDAs Let's start with some definitions and let's be particular about language at the start. It won't surprise you to know that, just as there are unrefined and refined carbohydrates, so there is unrefined and refined salt. You may also be able to guess from this that unrefined is better than refined - as is the case with carbohydrates. (However, I hope to go on to show that even refined salt is not bad for us - it merely lacks some additional nutrients that we could obtain with unrefined salt). Unrefined salt can also be known as sea salt. Celtic sea salt is the most widely mentioned sea salt - sourced from coastal regions of France. Andy and I use Anglesey sea salt, from North West Wales. There will be claims for one unrefined sea salt being better than another (just as there will be claims for one cheddar being better than another), but, any variant of unrefined sea salt will have nutritional benefit. Below is a table showing some of the multiples of minerals and elements in natural sea salt. Major Contents of Unrefined Celtic Sea Salt
Refined salt is also known as table salt. This is made up of sodium and chloride. You may remember salt being called sodium chloride during school chemistry lessons. There are approximately 2.4g of sodium in 6g salt. This means that approximately 40% of salt is sodium. You'll see sodium on food labels, rather than salt (on the rare occasions when you smart Harcombe followers see a food label of course!)
The American Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is in the form of sodium, rather than salt. The American RDA is 1,500mg for sodium and 4,700mg potassium. It will become clear in the next section why it is useful to note the potassium RDA alongside the sodium RDA (Ref 1).
The UK RDA is sometimes quoted as salt and sometimes as sodium and the two numbers don't match. NHS choices advises people to eat "no more than 6g salt per day." (Ref 2) (which would equate to 2,400mg sodium). The Department of Health nutrient 'bible' Dietary reference values for food energy and nutrients for the United Kingdom lists a Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) as 1,600mg sodium. There's no evidence base to either number, so why would they match!
Refined salt, table salt, is essentially sodium, with some calcium and then some trace amounts of other minerals. (Ref 3)
Why do we need salt?
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