Salt (sodium) plays an important role in the regulation of muscle contraction, fluid balance and nerve impulses in the human body and it is essential for overall good health. All our body fluids including blood, sweat, tears, etc. contain sodium. It is essential to maintain proper balance of sodium in these fluids. Taking note of your daily sodium intake is very important. Sodium in the body is mainly found in fluids that surround the body’s cells, such as blood and lymph fluid.
To gain more insight about salt intake as it concerns our health let’s take a look at the following captions:
- What are the Benefits of Salt?
- Is Excess Salt Harmful?
- What Is the Recommended Quantity of Salt Intake?
- What Steps Can You Take to Regulate Your Salt Intake?
What are the Benefits of Salt?
Your body requires a certain amount of sodium to live. Its most important function is to balance the amount of water that exists within and outside our cells. Some signs and symptoms of sodium deficiency include heart palpitations, dehydration, low blood pressure, muscle cramps, and low libido. Plain and simple, you need sodium. So why are there so many reports about the dangers of salt?
Actually, sodium chloride is the result of natural salt crystal being washed and chemically treated. The refinement process results in just two elements: sodium and chloride. Sodium chloride is what we refer to as table salt. It is this combination of elements that causes problems. Sodium is beneficial to the human body, but only when combined with potassium, calcium, magnesium, and other elements. In other words, the closer it is to its original form the better the benefits. In addition, some people are sensitive to high concentrations of sodium.
Sea salt undergoes little or no processing. Basically it is made by the evaporation of seawater. Therefore, in most cases it contains small quantities of minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and other minerals.
While sea salt undergoes little or no processing, Table salt, on the other hand undergoes major processing. Table salt is processed to make it more appealing as well as user friendly for cooking. When it is being refined to such extent, most of the minerals are lost.
World Health Organisation recommends that all salt for consumption should be fortified with iodine. Iodine is vital for brain development in foetus and young child as well as helps in mental development. Salt is the general name given to sodium chloride.
What is Your Daily Sodium Intake? Is Excess Salt Harmful?
When sodium intake exceeds the amount the body can handle it builds up in the interstitial areas and the kidneys have to work extra hard to excrete it. A build up may cause the body to hold extra fluids in the blood and around the cells, which contributes to increased blood pressure and also excess weight gain from water. The reason why water retention can be so hard to diagnose is that almost all the body’s tissues have plenty of capacity to hold a little extra fluid without looking abnormal.
What is the Recommended Quantity of Salt Intake?
Salt intake of less than 5 grams per day is recommended for adults. This will go a long way to help reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack. When we lower salt intake we are equally lowering the rate of high blood pressure. – WHO
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for sodium is about 2,300 mg – slightly more than one teaspoon. While sodium occurs naturally in many foods and is used in food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), salt itself still accounts for more than 90 per cent of the sodium in our diets. Ensure that you take note of your daily sodium intake.
So, how do you go about getting sufficient sodium? If you opt for table salt (sodium chloride), It is a good idea to become aware of the amounts in the foods and drinks you consume. Many luncheon meats, snack foods, and carbonated beverages have high sodium content.. If you eat a variety of wholesome foods including vegetables you can easily reach this limit. Many people consume much more sodium than their body needs. Excess salt is generally excreted through the urine. If the body receives too much sodium, it can become overwhelmed and you can become ill. It is a good practice to monitor your daily sodium intake.
Sea salt that is unrefined is the ideal salt to consume because it contains all the nutrients your body needs in addition to sodium.
In reality, 75 per cent of the salt in our diets comes from processed foods, with just 10 per cent coming from the salt we add during cooking or at the table and the remaining 15 per cent that occurs naturally in food.
This implies that the key to keeping salt intake down is to eat fewer processed, salty foods such as sauces, pickles, crisps, canned meats, sausages, ham, and canned soups.
However, we discover that these foods (processed foods) are also high in calories and fat making them poor choices especially for those engaged in weight loss program. If examined carefully, we notice that the more highly processed a food is, the more likely it is to have high sodium content. It is wise, as far as healthy dieting is concerned, to stick mainly to the basics. Fruits, vegetables, lean meant, beans and whole grains all have little sodium.
What Steps Can You Take to Regulate Your Salt Intake?
How can you guesstimate your salt intake? For most of us, eating healthfully means cutting down on salt. Even if cutting down your salt intake won’t reduce your waist measurement, it’ll make you a healthier person, better able to follow your weight management program. Don’t take daily sodium intake quantity for granted.
Consume Canned Soups Sparingly
Canned foods may be very high in sodium. A good health approach is to use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed types. Target the use of low-sodium margarine, or low-salt butter. As much as possible avoid salted nuts, chips, pickles and other snack foods. Where applicable, avoid using table salt. Make a habit not to add extra salt at the table. Make the effort to read the food labels carefully to find out more about what is in the foods you eat. This will help you choose the right foods. This will help you limit the amount of sodium you eat every day. Monitoring your daily sodium intake is very important.
A habit is easy to form, but had to brake. Applying this to our discussion on salt intake, It’s important that you edify yourself to avoid taking too much salt. Be aware that reducing your calorie intake and cutting out rich creamy sauces and refined sugars does not necessarily imply reduction in salt intake. In some instances, to enhance taste food may be prepared with extra seasonings. Salt is one the ways flavor can be added into a low fat diet. It is a good practice to read food labels carefully to ensure you don’t exceed your daily sodium intake.
Caution during Meal Preparation
Use fresh natural herbs such as basil, coriander, rosemary, mint and thyme to lean protein options such as chicken, tofu and fish when preparing your meals. Taste the cooked food, and then decide how much salt you need – if any! Chop fresh mint onto salads and add fresh basil to tomatoes. Take caution not to exceed the daily sodium intake when having your meal.
Eating outside your Home
Taste the food you are to eat before you add salt. Look before you leap. Have some self restraint over your emotions as regards salt intake. Where applicable, go easy on salt, and add more pepper instead!
Insist on Sea Salt
There are minute traces of minerals in sea salt, which you don’t find in ordinary salt. Though, sea salt is preferable to table salt, however, it is pertinent that you cut your intake of sea salt.
Wrapping It Up – for Good Health, Adhere To The Following:
- Check food labels carefully – especially for you are to buy processed foods
- When you are preparing meals, carefully take note of the quantity of salt you put to avoid over salting your food
- Note that salt are naturally contained in most foods we eat.
- When you are eating out or shopping ensure that you:
- Eat more natural food, for example check labels to select less salted nuts in preference to highly salted nuts or snacks.
- Ensure you check the label on tinned foods and choose wisely – where applicable, choose tinned vegetables that are labelled ‘no added salt’.
- Generally, check nutritional labels of the food item before your buy.
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