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Why You Should Eat Less Salt (Try Spice Instead!)
Most people have probably heard that too much salt is bad for them, but a lot of them do not really understand why. Salt is one of those ingredients that has become so ubiquitous that most of us consume much more of it than we ever realize. Let’s and see what science has to say about the potential health impacts of salt, and recommend some possible changes to your diet that might improve your health without making food boring.
Salt Under the Microscope
Sodium nitrate, also known as regular table salt, is found in just about every type of processed food as well fast food. Salt is an essential ingredient in cooking and can really help to bring out the flavor in a lot of ingredients. Sodium also does have health benefits. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a daily intake of 2300mg of salt per day, and the nutrition facts label on most foods items will list the percentage of this amount found in that food.
However, most Americans consume around 3400mg of sodium per day. What are the health risks of this?
It has been known for decades that consuming too much sodium is linked to hypertension commonly known as high blood pressure. Hypertension can increase your risk of more serious cardiovascular problems like a heart attack or stroke. It is for this reason that so many doctors, nutritionists, and health experts recommend that people reduce their sodium intake, and it is also why there are so many low sodium versions of existing products like canned soups, prepared meals, potato chips, and more.
Good News for Spices Lovers
Reducing the amount of salt you take in does not mean that all your food have to be boring. In many cases, the “low sodium” versions of various foods do not taste noticeably different. There is also good news for people who like spicy food.
The results of a Chinese study on this subject were recently published in Hypertension medical journal, and they suggest that eating hot and spicy foods could reduce your craving for salt in the first place.
In this study, 606 participants were surveyed about what they liked to eat. The researchers found that those who consumed lots of spicy foods also ate less salt and had lower blood pressure than those who preferred saltier foods. Even more interestingly, the researchers also performed brain imaging scans on two of the participants, and discovered that the regions of the brain associated with perceiving salty and spicy tastes overlapped. The spicy foods however stimulated this part of the brain more so than the salty foods. This suggests that since this part of the brain gets more of a “rush” out of spicy flavors than salty ones, that swapping salt for spiciness might be a good way to wean yourself off an unhealthy sodium intake.
More research needs to be done, but this is definitely exciting news for people with high blood pressure who enjoy spicy foods and want to maintain their cardiovascular health.