Salt is an important ingredient to enrich the flavour of our food. Can you imagine cooking without it? Salt is an essential element of life that our bodies cannot naturally produce. Salt is also called sodium chloride (NaCl). It consists of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Our body needs salt to function muscles, balance fluid, and nerve transmission properly. Salt also makes our kidneys retain water.
Too much salt leads to excessive water retention, raising our blood pressure and straining our kidneys, heart, brain, and arteries. Conversely, too little salt consumption or excessive water consumption that dilutes salt levels can cause hyponatremia which causes our cells to swell and leads to dizziness, confusion, cramps, and muscle twitches. However, due to an increase in processed foods, we tend to consume more salt than our body needs. Let’s learn more about salt's impact on our health through this article.
Most of us ingest far more than the recommended amount of salt daily. That’s because processed foods often have extremely high levels of sodium. “Hidden” salt accounts for around 75% of the salt we eat, and only 25% comes from the salt we add while cooking or at the table.
What happens when you overeat salt?
When you increase your salt intake, your body retains fluids. This can raise your blood pressure by increasing blood volume and can increase the workload on the heart. More specifically, sodium is the part that raises blood pressure. 1g of sodium is the same as 2.5g of salt.
What happens when you eat too little salt?
A diet low in salt is associated with elevated levels of bad cholesterol and insulin resistance. Therefore finding the right salt balance in our diet is essential for our health.
Salt intake and hypertension
Most people with high blood pressure shouldn’t eat over 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily (⅔ teaspoon of salt). Even those at low risk for hypertension should keep their sodium intake at less than 2,400 mg daily — the amount of salt in one teaspoon (6 grams).
Different types of salts
Plain table salt
Himalayan pink salt
The different types of salt may vary in taste, texture, and colour. If you are wondering which type is the healthiest, research shows they are all similar.
Even if your food doesn't taste salty, it still contains a deceiving amount of salt. Always check the packaging on sodium levels. Here is a list of 6 types of foods which (surprisingly) add the most sodium to our diet
- Processed meats
- Breakfast cereals
- Vegetable juice
- Canned soup and vegetables
- Flavoured packets and condiments
How to eat less salt
Excessive salt intake can harm our health, but it’s also true that it’s delicious, making it hard to kick the habit! When we consistently consume high amounts of sodium, our tastes adapt, and we have a higher threshold for salty tastes.
But, just like anything, with small changes, we can reverse the harmful effects of salt:
Getting enough potassium can help reduce hypertension and re-establish the delicate balance in your kidneys. Potassium helps your kidneys remove excess fluid. Many fruits and vegetables are good potassium sources, such as bananas and potatoes and low-fat dairy products. Finding salt alternatives will improve your health and expand your culinary talents and introduce you to a world of new tastes.
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