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You don't need to have high blood pressure to be harmed by salt. Within 30 minutes of eating a high-salt meal, the flexibility of your arteries may be reduced by half, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition—the same amount of havoc wreaked by a fatty meal!

A killer condiment?

The research was conducted in healthy people whose artery function returned to normal after two hours. Nevertheless, impaired blood vessel functioning like this will set you up for a future heart attack or stroke, and the risk is even greater if you already have a chronic heart condition.

So what’s the problem with salt? It contains massive amounts of sodium—some 200–300 times what’s recommended!

How does your salt rate?

Not all salt is the pure, white, and deadly stuff. Unrefined salt may come in pink, brown, black, or gray. These are misleadingly promoted as good sources of minerals to balance out the sodium.

Health authorities advise us to choose foods containing significantly more potassium and other minerals compared to sodium. Yet even Celtic sea salt and pink Himalayan rock salt, which fare best, still supply 60–145 times more sodium than potassium! Heart friendlier salt substitutes, based on a mix of sodium and potassium chloride, are available, but these need to be added after cooking and are unsuitable for those who have kidney problems.

How much is OK?

No added salt is best. Whole foods naturally contain enough for optimal functioning, and most Western diets already deliver excess sodium from processed foods. If you wish to flavor your food, add lemon juice, herbs, and spices. Fancy salts are just a more expensive way of doing yourself harm.

Food Matters: Should You Add Salt?

by Sue Radd
From the October 2011 Signs  

mg/100g Table Salt Sea Salt
e.g. Celtic
Rock Salt
e.g. Pink Himalayan
Salt Substitute
Sodium 38,178 33,000 38,261 19,500-21,718
Potassium 17 227 350-618 20,671
Magnesium 1 441 16-70 1
Calcium 34 128 205–405 34

Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and coauthor of Eat To Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve wellbeing. See for more nutrition information.