Of all the smells and tastes, perhaps Salt is the dearest, the most commonly used seasoning ever. It helps you understand the flavour to the food and is also considered essential for providing the sodium that human body requires. The body needs sodium to regulate its blood pressure and also to help maintain the electro-chemical balance that allows neurons to transmit impulses and muscles to contract. However, consuming too much sodium can be as dangerous for you as too little. So, read on to know about what are those health problems you can avert by lowering your salt intake and how much salt you can have in a day.
Salt is there everywhere!
Salt is present in a wide range of foods and drinks. It may also occur naturally in almost all unprocessed foods that include dairy products, shellfish, meats and vegetables but they do not make a significant contribution to the daily intake. Then there’s Salt in packaged foods and ready-to-eat foods which the manufacturers may add during the production process. Contrary to the common belief, the most dietary salt (over 70%) comes from eating packaged and prepared foods—not from table salt added to food when cooking or eating. And for consuming more than enough of Salt, your body and health might have to pay a bigger price.
- Too much Salt Causes Water Retention: Excessive Salt can make your body bloat and feel puffy. This is because your kidneys will conserve any extra water you drink to compensate for any extra sodium you consumed so as to maintain a specific sodium-to-water ratio in your body.
- Increased Thirst: Eating food items packed with excessive sodium can cause your mouth feel dry and this in turn can make you feel thirsty. This is actually your body trying to maintain its sodium-to-water ratio.
- Can be a Reason for Kidney Diseases: Kidney filters the excess amount of water from your body. For this, there should be a balance of sodium and potassium in the body so as to filter water from the bloodstream and collect in the kidney. But a high salt diet disrupts this sodium balance and causes the kidneys to reduce their functioning and remove less water resulting in higher blood pressure. This can be stressful for the kidneys and can lead to kidney disease.
- Causes Increase in Blood Pressure: Excess sodium increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, and that creates an added burden on the heart. So, regular consumption of sodium-rich meals can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease.
- Leads to Calcium Loss: Salt plays a major role in regulating the amount of calcium in the urine and lost from the bones. But too much salt can lead to bone weakening and therefore osteoporosis.
- Increased Risk of Heart Diseases: Excessive salt intake has been linked to hypertension, and of course hypertension is a cause for heart disease.
- Frequent mild headaches owe to Dehydration: Consuming excess amount of Salt can cause headaches induced by dehydration.
- Can be Toxic for Bedridden Patients: Too much sodium in the blood is called hypernatremia. This is an acute condition that can be risky for bedridden adults who are mentally and physically impaired. As they do not eat or drink enough, this causes severe dehydration. Excessive sweating or use of diuretic medications that take away the water content of the body can also be the reason for this. So, when sodium accumulates in the blood, water is transferred from cells to the blood to dilute it. This fluid shift and a build-up of fluid in the brain can cause seizures, coma, and uneasiness.
How much salt is safe to consume in a day?
Highlighting the risk of too much salt intake, experts suggest that an adult should consume less than 2 g of sodium per day, which is equivalent to about one teaspoon of salt. However, it’s ideal to reduce your salt intake to just 1.5 g per day to keep blood pressure levels low.
How to Reduce your Salt Intake?
You might be wanting to consume less sodium but the food choices you are offered can often make it difficult for you. So in that case the below mentioned general tips can come handy;
Look at the Label: Even if a food is naturally low in sodium, a significant amount of sodium can be added during the processing or packaging procedures. Hence, look at the nutrition information listed on the label of product you purchase and restrain from excess consumption if salt content is high.
Know how much Salt you are Having: Check the serving size and the number of servings you eat or drink to determine how much sodium you are consuming.
Avoid Salty Foods: Sodium content tends to be quite high in Pickles, Pappads, Packaged Fried Snacks, canned soups, fruits, vegetables, beans, smoked and cured meats, olives, pickles, jarred or canned sauces, hot dogs, lunch meats and salad dressings etc. So, use the Nutrition Facts label to compare products, and don’t forget to check the serving size in order to make an accurate comparison.
Prepare your own food when you can: Limit packaged foods and restaurant foods as they you don’t see or know how much salt they have added.
Flavour them without Salt: Try no-salt seasoning blends, herbs and spices instead of adding salt to flavor food.
Go Fresh: Skip processed/salted veggies, meat, poultry and seafood and start using fresh produce.
Rinse it Well: Rinse sodium-laden canned foods, such as beans, tuna, and vegetables before eating to remove the excess amount of Salt
Choose lower-sodium while eating Out: When eating out—choose smaller sizes, split an entrée with a friend, or take-home part of your meal. You may also request for preparing your meal without adding or using lesser table salt and request for sauces and salad dressings to be served on table.