From the meals we order at restaurants to the pantry staples and packaged foods we buy in the grocery store, there's a lot of salt in our diet.
Salt does more than just make our food taste more delicious – it’s important for our bodies to function properly.
Sodium, one of the key ingredients in table salt, regulates blood flow and pressure and helps transmit messages between nerves and muscle fibres. Chloride, the other chemical in table salt, aids in digestion.
Foods in our diet need to have enough salt to replenish these nutrients to keep us healthy. But too much salt can be bad for one’s health.
I have always asked myself, how much salt should we be consuming exactly? And in an interview with health and wellness expert, Maria Ascencao, she said that most health experts advised against consuming too much salt as it may lead to major health problems. However, at the same time, studies show that the body needs salt to function.
“The World Health Organisation recommends salt intake should be limited to no more than 5g per person, per day. Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is a combination of sodium and chloride and is naturally found in foods like beets, celery, spinach, meat, and carrots, can be used to add flavour to food and is also used to preserve food,” said Ascencao.
“Too much sodium can also increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and kidney disease. In South Africa, more than one in three adults live with high blood pressure, and it is responsible for one in every two strokes and two in every five heart attacks, according to the Heart Foundation in SA”, she added.
If you consume too much salt, here’s why you need to cut it down.
May raise blood pressure
If you’re the type to regularly tuck into a bag of chips, it’s worth reconsidering the habit. Too much sodium isn’t good for anyone, but for people who have hypertension, salt – a sodium compound – is especially dangerous.
Sodium leads to small spikes in blood pressure for people who don’t already have hypertension and large spikes in people who do, according to research. Hypertension is the key driver of a number of cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks, strokes, and coronary artery disease.
When the kidneys retain water, your body is likely to bloat. Such swelling is called edema, and it can occur in your face, hands, ankles, or legs.
It is not a serious condition; however, it can be uncomfortable and make clothes feel too tight. Drinking water and not eating high-sodium foods can help the swelling subside.
It is suggested that sodium also tends to make people thirsty. Though enough research hasn’t been done to support the fact, it is likely that a person can guzzle down more water due to eating salty food items.
Now, how do you cut back on salt intake? Here are six ways to cut back on salt - and keep the flavour - when cooking at home.