The media changes its stories from one season to the other. A few years ago, tea was not good to drink due to its caffeine content. Now it is good due to its high antioxidant content. Ginko biloba was the potential cure for memory loss but now we find it also has side effects like increased bleeding and heart palpitations. What about salt?
How Salt Affects Your Body
Salt is a compound made of two elements, sodium and chloride. The kidneys regulate the amount of sodium in our bodies. When sodium is low, the kidneys hold onto it. When there is too much, the kidneys filter it out in the urine.
Naturally, sodium attracts water to itself. So, if there is too much sodium in our bodies, we begin to retain excess fluid which increases blood volume. This makes the heart work harder and increases pressure in the arteries and the organs at the end of those arteries like the heart, liver, or kidneys. High blood pressure (hypertension) develops and damages the arteries. Over time, if this process continues, we may develop congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, chronic kidney disease, edema (swelling) and eye disease ( watch here ). So, our bodies lose the ability to regulate sodium.
Purpose of Salt and Quantities Needed in Our Diet
Don’t forget, salt is important for us. Just like cholesterol, we are not able to survive without it. Our bodies need sodium to help transmit nerve impulses, maintain fluid balance and help with relaxation and contraction of muscles.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting salt intake to less than 6 grams per day (2,300 mg of sodium). People older than 50, blacks or those with certain health conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease) may be more sensitive to sodium’s effects. Therefore those individuals will need to consume less than the recommended dose.
Other Names for Salt
While shopping in the store be aware of products that contain salt but use a different name for it. Examples are: baking powder, baking soda, monosodium glutamate ( MSG ) sodium alginate, sodium saccharin (a sweetener), sodium nitrate or nitrite, or disodium phosphate. Also, look at the food label and see the amount of sodium content.
1. Use low sodium products (avoid: ham, sausages, bacon and other meat products, smoked fish and meats, canned vegetables, most butter, margarine and spreads, cheese, bread and some breakfast cereals)
2. Remove or use less salt in recipes (use herbs instead)
3. Limit use of condiments (ketchup, mustard, relish, dips, salad dressings are often high in sodium)
4. Eat fresh foods and fewer processed foods
5. Watch out for salt substitutes
6. Try the DASH diet
7. Talk with your doctor if you have more questions or if you have any health conditions
Moderation, moderation, moderation!
Look at your parents…. Look at your future…. Look at what you are currently doing for yourself.