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The Benefits of Salt Reduction in Our Diets

Adriel is a fitness enthusiast. He enjoys eating healthy foods and working out.

Hand sprinkling salt

Hand sprinkling salt

Salt is also referred to as table salt. It is composed of sodium (40%) and chloride (60%) ions. The main sources of salt are sea water and sodium chloride mineral(halite).

Salt is a vital ingredient in preparing food and enhancing its taste. It has been used as a preservative since the advent of civilization. It was also used as a form of currency during the barter trade system.

All food substances contain sodium(salt). However, added salt is the main source of sodium in our food.

Burger

Burger

The tremendous growth of the processed food industry, urbanization, and changing lifestyles are changing dietary patterns. Ultra processed foods are becoming more affordable and ubiquitous in developed and developing countries.

People are consuming increasing quantities of refined foods which are high in fats, sugar and salt.

Salt is the main source of sodium in our diets and increased consumption of sodium is associated with hypertension and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

On the flip side, as the dietary patterns shift, people are consuming fewer vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits contain potassium which aids in the reduction of blood pressure.

The role of sodium in the body

Sodium plays a critical role in the maintenance of water balance and equilibrium. Around 60% of our total body weight is comprised of water.

It also has a vital role to play in the electro-physiological functions of the cell.Our bodies have powerful in-built mechanisms for maintaining blood pressure even when the intake of sodium is low.

Salt shaker

Salt shaker

Sodium is quickly absorbed from the digestive tract and a positive balance is attained on intakes just above nominal requirements. Kidneys help to regulate the levels of sodium in the body.

Sodium is lost through sweat, urine and feces. Therefore the sodium requirements in the body are dependent on the amount lost.

Sodium losses from sweat vary with the climate. High temperatures and high intensity exercise increase the loss of sodium via sweat.

Salt

Salt

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Salt is an acquired taste and its consumption should be restricted from childhood. It becomes much harder for individuals to limit their salt consumption as they grow older.

Decades of research on the effects of salt on the body have yielded conflicting results.

Sources of sodium

Natural food provide around 300-400 mg of sodium a day. Cereals, milk, pulses, vegetables, animal and sea foods are the main natural sources of sodium.

Processed food such as bread, pizza, ham, bacon, sausages and canned food also contain significant amounts of salt.

Assorted  vegetables

Assorted vegetables

Health problems associated with excessive salt/sodium intake

A significant increase in salt intake leads to a corresponding increase in blood pressure. A low prevalence of hypertension can be found among individuals who consume less than 3 g salt per day.

Significant restrictions of salt decreases the risk of hypertension. Hypertension or high blood pressure is a condition that occurs when the force of blood pushing through the artery walls is systematically very high.

Assorted vegetables

Assorted vegetables

Apart from increasing blood pressure, excessive salt has a detrimental effect on stomach mucosa and result in gastric cancer atrophic and gastritis.

Higher sodium intake leads to increased calcium excretion which may result in reduction in density of bones.

A high sodium intake has a deleterious effect on blood vessels, blood pressure, bones and gastrointestinal tract.

How much salt should we consume in day?

Salt should not be completely omitted from our diets. However, it should be consumed in moderation. Iodized salt aids in the prevention of goiter.

It is recommended that salt intake should not exceed 6 grams per day.

Salt and spices

Salt and spices

How to reduce the intake of salt in the diet

  • Consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed food. Processed food contains very high quantities of salt.
  • Check if the labels of food cans are labeled: ‘no salt’, ‘low salt’, or ‘reduced salt’.
  • Use spices and herbs to spice your food. Spices and herbs reduce the need to use large amounts of salt.
  • Avoid adding more salt to food after it has been served.
  • Avoid buying foods like food items that contain large amounts of salt such as pickles, soy sauce and ketchup.
  • Buy fresh meat instead of processed meat such as ham, salami, sausages and bacon.
  • Limiting the consumption of salty snacks.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Adriel Ananiel

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