Guest Author - Maryn Leister
I'd bet that many of you reading this have been told by your doctor to limit your salt intake during pregnancy. My studies and experience have taught me that not only is this mostly false, but the average caregiver out there imparts so little information about nutrition to their clients that even good advice can be misinterpreted.
When you hear that salt is “bad” in pregnancy, it's not a completely false statement. There are many kinds of salt- from iodized salt, to sodium bicarbonate to monosodium glutamate to completely unrefined, pure sea salt. All of these “salts” are not created equally, and what needs to be part of the salt/pregnancy discussion is what type of salt you are using.
I agree- there is no nutritional value or place for processed foods in a healthy pregnancy.
Fast food, chips, pretty much anything packaged is preserved and enhanced with “bad” sodium- whether it be monosodium glutamate (MSG) or other processed salt flavorings. Deli meats, bacon and sausage are notorious for being chock-full of the kind of salt that your body can't process. So, I'd agree-limit this type of salt in pregnancy to keep your blood pressure stable and normal and to avoid swelling, headaches and liver problems. Processed foods are brimming with preservatives and chemicals that the pregnant body should not have to process. So, again, when it comes to these foods and this “kind” of salt- avoid it or at least limit it as much as you can.
The problem is that many caregivers do not differentiate between these types of foods and the kind of unrefined, unprocessed salt that your body needs to maintain balance.
Prescribing a “low salt diet” does not take into account that as living beings we all need salt to make new cells and keep our bodies going. Salt in this form is beneficial and wonderful and anything but harmful and something to avoid.
Unrefined, real sea salt is almost gray in color and slightly damp in feel. It contains trace elements and minerals that act as electrolytes and keep the correct balance of fluids in the bloodstream. “Good” salt actually attaches itself to water and pulls it back into the bloodstream, instead of letting it leak out into the extremities- the pathological swelling of pregnancy that is so typical and normal for so many pregnant women. Unfortunately for these women, the swelling only gets worse and worse and more painful as the pregnancy progresses and they follow the low-salt recommendations of their doctor.
The Brewer Diet is my recommendation for pregnancy, and it includes not only enough calories and protein to grow a healthy baby and placenta (2700 a day and 80-100 grams a day, respectively), but also salt to taste and hydration. In creating the diet and conduction research to prevent toxemia in pregnancy, Dr. Brewer found that if he gave the same pregnant woman the same meal at several different points throughout her pregnancy, that she instinctively added more salt as her pregnancy advanced. Dr. Brewer proved, through this experiment and others, that salt is needed in pregnancy and plays a vital role in blood formation and in the general health of mom and baby.
If you have never tried “real” salt, it is worth the experiment! It is part of a healthy, whole foods diet for pregnancy and beyond.