Salt: Safe or Scary?

Filed under: Mealtime, Diet & Fitness, Nutrition: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Nutrition: Big Kids, Nutrition: Tweens, Nutrition: Teens

Should you be worried about your child's salt intake? EraPhernalia Vintage (catching up), Flickr

The latest nutritional bogeyman is partially hydrogenated oil, also called trans-fat. Hello, increased risk of heart disease!

But what about salt, that evildoer of yesteryear that seems to have disappeared from our list of worries?


Have we been lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to the white stuff? Or is salt -- whether regular, iodized or sea salt -- actually a perfectly safe flavor-enhancer?

VERDICT ...

Regular Salt: Seven out of 10 Americans get more than twice as much salt than is recommended, which is leading to soaring rates of high blood pressure and an attendant increased risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. And about 90 percent of Americans will eventually develop high blood pressure at the rate we're going. Rather than worrying about how much salt you're using at the table, focus on reducing your family's consumption of junk and restaurant foods, which is the source of 90 percent of the salt in our diets.

Iodized Salt: A lack of sufficient iodine is the main cause of preventable mental retardation in the world. Adding iodine to salt has helped reduce this problem. But while iodized salt is helpful for those concerned about getting enough of this mineral, a more reliable source is seafood, seaweed and dairy products.

Sea Salt: Sea salt has the same amount of sodium as regular salt -- and brings with it all the same health issues. But good-quality, unrefined sea salt contains a host of trace minerals that can help regulate cell function, so it's a better choice for your family.

Salt Substitute: Salt substitutes are most often composed of potassium chloride. While these products should be perfectly safe for most people, anyone who's been prescribed an ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitor heart medication should avoid salt substitutes, as they can interact with the medicine and cause a life-threatening reaction.

Jennifer Schonborn is a holistic nutrition counselor based in New York.

Related: More on Eating & Nutrition

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.