Avoid adding salt to your food at the table, experts recommend.

Why you should stop adding salt and what you can do to make your food taste good instead

Adding salt to your meal at the table is associated with a shorter lifespan and a higher risk of premature death, according to a new study.

The study looked at more than 500,000 people in the UK Biobank who answered a questionnaire between 2006 and 2010 about their salt habits and the frequency with which they added salt to their food. Before you start revisiting all your favorite recipes: Researchers only looked at how much salt was added after the meals in question were cooked, according to findings published in July in the European Heart Journal.

Researchers followed up on participants about nine years later and found that the more salt people added to their meals, the greater their chance of dying prematurely. However, those people who consume a lot of salt may lower their risk by eating more fruits and vegetables, the study said.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day — but notes that the “ideal limit” is 1,500 milligrams per day. Consuming too much salt can raise blood pressure, which in turn can cause heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, according to the Heart Association.

The UK’s National Health Service recommends adults limit their sodium intake to about a teaspoon of salt per day.

There’s a long track record of scientific research showing that a diet high in salt is risky, but this study adds a new level of caution against adding more to your plate, said lead study author Lu Qi, a professor of epidemiology at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.

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“More evidence is needed, especially that from clinical trials, before the public takes action,” he said. “However, our findings are in line with the previous studies consistently showing that high sodium intake is adversely related to several health outcomes, such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.”

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Even if you don’t add salt to your own plate, you may be taking in more sodium than you should.

A 2020 meta-analysis of 133 clinically randomized trials of reducing salt intake found strong evidence that reducing dietary sodium lowered blood pressure in people with pre-existing hypertension — and even those who were not yet at risk.
One of the main culprits of high sodium in our diets? Manufactured foods, which often use salt for flavor, texture, color and preservation. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, more than 70% of the sodium Americans eat comes from what has been added by the food industry to products later purchased in stores or restaurants.

“Most of my patients don’t add salt to the dinner table, but don’t realize that sandwiches, canned vegetables, and chicken breasts are among the biggest culprits. (of high sodium) in the US,” said Dr. Stephen Juraschek, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who studies sodium and hypertension.

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juraschek was not involved in the 2020 Biobank study or meta-analysis.

But salt makes everything so delicious, you might think.

However, there are strategies for maintaining a vibrant palate and creating tempting dishes with less salt, said Carly Knowles, a registered dietitian who is also a private chef, licensed doula and the author of the cookbook “The Nutritionist’s Kitchen.”

Knowles recommends cooking at home — where you have more control over the salt shaker as you prepare your meal — more often, reading your produce’s ingredients, substituting no-salt herb and spice blends, and focusing your diet on minimally processed foods.

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