Once and for All, Is Salt Bad for You?

Oz answers the age-old question.

Q: OK, once and for all, is salt bad for you?

OZ Says: I understand why this issue is confusing. For years you've heard that eating too many salty foods hurts your health—and now, a new study found that getting too little sodium can boost your risk of heart disease and strokes. But the study focused on people who get less than 1,500 mg a day. Most of us get far more than that—which can also lead to heart disease and strokes.

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Your muscles and nerves need some sodium in order to work well. The sweet spot is 2,300 mg a day; that's the amount in a teaspoon of salt. Yes, a teaspoon. If you eat processed foods, it's easy to get too much (75% of the sodium Americans consume is in processed food—see chart at right). As with many things, salt is neither completely good nor bad; it's the quantity that matters. So track how much is sneaking into your diet, and rely more on herbs and spices than salt for flavor.

Where Americans Get Their Salt

See why it's so easy to go overboard on sodium with these popular foods:

  • 2 slices of whole-wheat bread, 300 mg
  •  6 chicken nuggets, 580 mg
  •  1 cup of chicken noodle soup, 930 mg
  •  2 slices of pizza, 1,280 mg

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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