- Brian Bender, PhD
Is Salt Bad for Diabetics?
Guest Post written exclusively for Intake Health by Allie Cooper. This post is not intended to be construed as medical advice.
If you're diabetic, you're probably well used to watching what you eat. While it's always a good idea to watch your salt intake regardless of whether you're diabetic, many are still confused about the exact relationship between salt and diabetes. The problem is that salt — just like sugar — is hard to completely get rid of. For diabetics, the key is in crafting a healthy relationship towards salt so that you're able to consume the food you like without worrying about exacerbating your condition. Below is a quick overview on how salt affects people with diabetes, as well as some ways to help manage your eating habits to ensure your intake doesn't go overboard.
What's the deal with salt?
The CDC emphasizes that people with diabetes are at higher risk of contracting heart disease, particularly because they're at risk for developing other conditions that eventually lead to heart disease: think high blood pressure, an increase in LDL ("bad" cholesterol) stores, and high levels of triglycerides. It goes without saying that these conditions are exacerbated by an increase in salt, which is why you'll hear lots of advice for diabetics to lessen their salt intake, too. Even for healthy individuals, the FDA recommends only 2,300 mg (or the equivalent of one teaspoon) of sodium per day. In contrast, the average American consumes over 3,400 mg of sodium per day, or about 50 percent higher than what's recommended!
At this point, it's important to remember that sodium and salt aren't necessarily the same. Sodium is a necessary electrolyte that our bodies need to survive, while table salt is made up of 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. The reason why people use salt and sodium interchangeably is because nearly all the dietary sodium we eat comes from salt. Chloride is also an essential nutrient, and its recommended intake levels actually mirror that of sodium because these nutrients are almost always consumed together.
How do I curb my salt intake?
As always, the first plan of action is changing your diet. While the most sustainable way to achieve this is by working with a nutritionist, there are still small nutritional steps you can start today. A study published in Circulation found that 70 percent of our sodium intake comes from restaurant and processed foods — notice how it isn't just from fast food alone? Preparing your meals at home helps you control how much salt you put in your food.
Diet changes don't always have to be restrictive. Another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition notes that green tea may potentially lower blood pressure. Making these dietary switches ensures that you’re able to still enjoy a treat here and there without worrying that you’re harming your body.