Can’t imagine cooking without salt, right? Although our taste buds have no complaints about how salt makes our food tasty, our body has a love-hate relationship with sodium. On one hand it helps us maintain our body’s fluid balance, sends nerve impulses, and affects muscle function,On the other hand, excess sodium in your bloodstream increases your blood pressure.
Fun Fact: Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably but they’re not the same. Table salt (NaCl) comprises 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride!
Why is Too Much Salt Bad for You?
Too much salt in your body pulls water into your bloodstream, thereby increasing the total volume of blood flowing through it. This causes a spike in blood pressure. High blood pressure may injure or damage vessel walls and speed up the build-up of plaque which in turn blocks blood flow. It is also a major risk factor for heart disease. The extra water may also lead to bloating or weight gain.
Sources of Dietary Salt
Over 70 percent of the sodium we consume comes from processed, pre-packaged and restaurant food. In a standard diet, only 11 -15 percent of the total salt is added to food while cooking or eating.
Foods which contribute the most amount of sodium to our diets include:
- Cold cuts, bacon and processed or frozen meats contain more sodium than fresh meat.
- Fast foods
- Prepared dinners or meals.
- Condiments and sauces such as soy sauce, salad dressings, sauces, dips, ketchup, mustard.
To put things into perspective, let’s take soy sauce as an example. One tablespoon or 15 ml of soy sauce contains about 1000 mg of sodium. This is 2 times the basic minimum requirement per day. If we consider a can of chicken noodle soup labelled as having 25 percent less sodium content, the amount of sodium in one cup is still as high as 524 mg. Similarly, most commercially prepared food items are processed with high amounts of sodium which is way more than what your body requires. These types of processed foods usually taste good and leave us wanting more.Just imagine how much excess salt you have been consuming without even realising it!
Sometimes it is not possible to judge the sodium levels in packaged foods just by tasting it.Reading the nutrition labels on food items can help you identify and monitor how much sodium per portion you are consuming. It is generally recommended that you avoid products containing more than 200 mg of sodium per serving.
How Much Salt Should You Consume?
Your body doesn’t require more than 500 mg of sodium a day. To make it clearer, that’s less than 1/4th of a teaspoon. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 2,300 mg per day and an ideal limit of 1500 mg per day for most healthy adults. Excessive sodium consumption (>5000 mg per day) has been shown to produce a significant increase in blood pressure and has been linked with the onset of hypertension and its cardiovascular complications.
Consumption of less sodium helps curb the increase in blood pressure that occurs due to age. It also reduces the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and even headaches.
This goes to prove the age-old adage, that prevention is better than cure. So, even if you don’t have high blood pressure, it is always a good idea to keep an eye on your dietary salt intake.