Salt is a chemical compound (electrolyte) made up of sodium and chloride. It is commonly used to preserve and flavour foods and is the main source of sodium in our diet. A small amount of sodium is important for good health as it helps to maintain the correct volume of circulating blood and tissue fluids in the body. However, most people consume much more sodium than they need. The body needs a small amount of sodium to function, but most Americans consume too much sodium. The problem is that salt is very tasty, just like sugar. The combination of salt, sugar and fat is unbelievably tasty.
High salt consumption and effects on health –
- High sodium consumption can raise blood pressure, because it holds excess fluid in the body, and that creates an added burden on the heart.
- High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
- A long term problem related to hypertension is kidney disease, a chronic illness which can lead to kidney failure.
- A high level of salt intake increases the amount of calcium excreted in the urine, which may also contribute to osteoporosis and increased risk of fracture.
- Hypernatremia is a very serious condition that occurs when your sodium levels rise above 145 milliequivalents per litre (mEq/L). It can lead to death. A major symptom is thirst and treatment usually involves controlled water replacement.
Methods to reduce salt intake –
- Consuming fresh, whole and natural foods, sodium intake can be reduced quite easily.
- Avoiding added salt, soy sauce and other packaged foods will also help reduce total sodium intake.
- Look for products less than 140 milligrams per serving, which is considered to be low in sodium.
- Consider cooking at home with fresh foods and low sodium recipes.
- Reduce salt while cooking instead use herbs and spices to flavour food.
- Some people believe sea salt is a healthier alternative to normal table salt, but both are composed of sodium chloride so are best avoided.