Nuts are chalk full of a plethora of healthy macro and micronutrients. They are high in protein, heart-healthy fats, fibre and more. Salt is also an essential mineral. It contains potassium and sodium, which are key electrolytes required by the body to function. Electrolytes (chemicals that carry an electrical charge) are essential for maintaining the cell membrane stability, transmission of nerve impulses and muscle contraction. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? What about salted nuts? Although, we learned from a very young age that it’s what’s on the inside that matters, the sodium-laden exterior majorly detracts from this superfood’s healthy nutrient profile. The vast majority of people get the required amount of salt from the foods that we eat throughout the day. Adults require no more than 1g of salt per day (with the recommended maximum clocking in at 6g/day), yet most Western cultures typically consume anywhere from 5-10 times more than that. The salty coating on cashews, pistachios, or any other nuts drastically increases your daily sodium intake, which is bad news for our health.
High salt intake is directly correlated with a rise in blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured by the amount of pressure that circulating blood places on our blood vessel’s walls. Factors such as weight, activity level and salt intake have an immense impact on one’s blood pressure. Why does this happen? High salt consumption disrupts the delicate balance of water content in one’s body. Excess salt impedes kidney function, by preventing their ability to rid the body of excess fluids. This additional water is subsequently stored in the body, raising blood pressure and putting a strain on our blood vessels. The higher the pressure, the greater the stress on the heart, blood vessels, arteries, brain and kidneys. This condition is known as the silent killer, because it can very quickly sneak up on you as you remain symptom free.
Spikes in blood pressure can lead to strokes, which occur when a portion of the brain no longer receives a fresh supply of oxygenated blood, causing cells in that area to die. The leading cause of stroke is high blood pressure, and a leading cause of high blood pressure is increased salt intake – so put down those salted nuts!
Heart attacks occur when the coronary arteries (blood vessels supplying the heart with fresh blood) narrow. As a result, the heart’s oxygen supply is cut off, causing damage to the heart muscle. The narrowing of these blood vessels is caused by high blood pressure (or hypertension). Years of high blood pressure leads to blood vessel damage, causing them to narrow, rupture or leak. Hypertension can also cause blood clots and again preventing blood from freely flowing where it needs to go.
We already mentioned that the kidneys are the two bean-shaped organs that filter our body’s blood and that high salt consumption leads to high blood pressure, thus an added strain on our kidneys. Increased blood pressure stretches these blood vessels, causing them to weaken. Not only does this affect the ability of the kidneys to function properly, but possibly altogether. They may no longer be able to remove waste and extra water from the body, this creating a vicious cycle – by impairing their ability to rid the body of excess fluid, thus no longer being able to decrease our body’s blood pressure.
Increased salt intake has also been linked to stomach cancer, obesity, dementia, and osteoporosis among others. High salt intake has also been said to aggravate asthma and diabetes symptoms.
Nuts are an incredibly healthy option for snacking or as a nutrition boost to recipes – we love sprinkling some nuts into our salads and smoothie bowls or incorporating them into homemade energy bars. A one ounce serving of unsalted almonds contains roughly 22 nuts, 165 calories, 6g of protein, 14 grams of heart-healthy fats, and 3.5 grams of fibre as well as nearly half of our daily dose if vitamin E requirements and a notable amount of magnesium. The same amount of salted almonds, of course, contains the same nutrient profile, but clock in 186 milligrams of sodium. This may seem like a negligible amount, however combined with other foods consumed throughout the day, those numbers can very quickly skyrocket. If plain nuts just aren’t your cup of tea, try seasoning them with sodium-free flavourings such as paprika, chillies & lime or curry. The possibilities are endless, and your body (and blood vessels) will thank you!
The Author: Daina Kenins
Daina is a lover of all things health & wellness related; a health food connoisseur, an avid marathon runner, a certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher and a spin studio manager. She is ambassador for healthy eating and loves to create and share recipes on her instagram page @thepaleobean.