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Salt has long been a treasured food staple.
Far from being harmful, high-quality salt is actually essential for life,
but in the United States and many other developed countries salt has been
vilified as a primary cause of high blood pressure and heart disease.
According to preliminary research presented at an American Heart
Association meeting in New Orleans on March 21,1 excessive salt consumption
contributed to 2.3 million heart-related deaths worldwide in 2010; 42 percent
from coronary heart disease and 41 percent from stroke.
This includes sodium intake from commercially available table salt and
sodium found in processed foods and soy sauce. According to the researchers,
40 percent of deaths were premature, occurring in those under the age of 69.
Sixty percent of the deaths were in men; 40 percent were women.
To reach these conclusions, the researchers analyzed 247 food surveys on
sodium consumption collected between 1990 and 2010. From these, they tried to
determine how the various salt intakes affected cardiovascular disease risks.
The ideal salt intake was determined to be less than 1,000 mg per day.
Kazakhstan had the highest average salt intake at 6,000 mg per day. Kenya
and Malawi had the lowest average intake at about 2,000 mg. Other salty
regions included Central Asia, with an average of 5,500 mg sodium per day;
high-income countries in the Asia-Pacific area, averaging 5,000 mg per day;
and East Asia at 4,800 mg per day.
According to the featured article:
“Global sodium intake from various sources such as prepared food and
soy sauce averaged nearly 4,000 milligrams a day in 2010... In the U.S., the
average intake was about 3,600 milligrams a day. While the World Health
Organization recommends sodium intake of fewer than 2,000 milligrams a day,
181 of 187 countries representing 99 percent of the world’s population
exceeded the recommended level.”
You Need Salt, But Make Sure It’s the Right Kind
So is salt a dietary friend or foe? Salt is actually a nutritional
goldmine, provided you consume the right kind, and maintain a proper salt-
to-potassium ratio, which I’ll discuss in a moment. Unfortunately, modern
table salt has very little in common with natural, unrefined salt.
Salt provides two elements – sodium and chloride – that are essential for
life. Your body cannot make these elements on its own, so you must get them
from your diet. Some of the many biological processes for which natural salt
is crucial include:
Being a major component of your blood plasma, lymphatic fluid,
extracellular fluid, and even amniotic fluid
Carrying nutrients into and out of your cells, and helping maintain your
Increasing the glial cells in your brain, which are responsible for
creative thinking and long-term planning. Both sodium and chloride are also
necessary for the firing of neurons
Maintain and regulate blood pressure
Helping your brain communicate with your muscles, so that you can move on
demand via sodium-potassium ion exchange
Supporting the function of your adrenal glands, which produce dozens of
However, not all salts are created equal.
Natural salt contains 84 percent sodium chloride, and 16 percent naturally-occurring
trace minerals, including silicon, phosphorous and vanadium.
Processed (table) salt contains 97.5 percent sodium chloride and the
rest is man-made chemicals, such as moisture absorbents and flow agents.
These are dangerous chemicals like ferrocyanide and aluminosilicate.
A small amount of iodine may also be added.
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