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To Salt Or Not To Salt

The soup could use a little more salt, but a voice in your head wonders if salt is bad for your health.

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Photo: Myles Cloutier (Flickr)

Without salt, we wouldn't be able to live.

The soup could use a little more salt, but a voice in your head wonders if salt is bad for your health.

Salt hasn’t always had a bad reputation. In Roman times it was valued so highly that Roman soldiers were paid with salt, that’s where the word salary comes from. Without salt, we wouldn’t be able to live. That’s because salt helps the body maintain the right amount of water inside our cells and in the bloodstream. Our bodies constantly balance water and salt, and this helps control blood pressure. If everybody needs salt, why does salt get such a bad rap?

Different people react differently to salt, depending on how easily their bodies regulate blood pressure. For people trying to control their blood pressure, it’s a good idea to watch how your body and your blood pressure respond to salt. When it comes to causing high blood pressure, research studies haven’t found salt to be the smoking gun that doctors once thought. It’s not a good idea to drastically increase or decrease salt intake, but you can experiment with small changes and see how it affects you. For most people, it’s okay to salt your soup to taste.

There’s no reason for healthy pregnant women to cut back on salt. Doctors once thought avoiding salt in pregnancy would help prevent swelling and blood pressure problems. However, like everyone else, pregnant women need salt to keep the right amount of water in the cells and bloodstream, especially because blood volume increases in pregnancy.

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