Written by R. S Jacobs
Did you know that the average adult only needs 1 teaspoon of salt a day? Contrary to popular belief, salt is an essential mineral in maintaining good health. It is necessary for balancing fluid levels, the process of effectively contracting and relaxing muscle fibres, transmitting nerve impulses throughout the body, and the general absorption of nutrients. That being said, it’s important to note that too much salt can actually have a detrimental impact on your overall well-being.
As I highlighted previously, Salt (sodium) is an essential mineral needed for the optimum performance of various functions within the body. It helps to maintain the acid-base level, regulates sugar levels in the blood, prevents muscle cramps, vital for maintaining strong bones, and preventing debilitating illnesses such as gout, arthritis and osteoporosis. Your body does a good job at naturally regulating sodium levels by tasking the kidneys to remove any excess through urine. The body regulates salt and water in different ways, but both are crucial in stabilising blood pressure.
The combination of high salt intake and increased blood pressure forces the arteries to retaliate by implementing safety measures to counteract the side effects. One of the main consequences is the hardening of the artery walls, which over time leads to narrow and clogged arteries. The arteries will gradually start to have significantly reduced space for blood to flow through, which encouraging plaque buildup. If this plaque breaks off and spread around the body, it could lead to potentially fatal consequences. Therefore, the habit of consuming too much salt or having too much sodium in your system is a recipe for disaster with common problems like hypertension, stroke, heart issues, and kidneys problem lurking around the corner.
Additionally, our brain and spine are protected by a sac of salt water called Cerebrospinal fluid, and we can all agree that the brain and spine are kind of a pretty big deal! So, there is no denying that salt plays a vital role in the cerebral system. Where the issue begins to creep in is when the hardened arteries start affecting the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, leading to potential long-term damage in the form of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or stroke to name a few. The dangerous thing about high blood pressure as a result of high salt intake is that the signs are not necessarily obvious to the average person until they start demonstrating devastating illness. For this reason, you might not immediately associate your salt habit with illnesses. Side note “Make sure you periodically check your blood pressure”
Fortunately, food manufacturers are legally obliged by health authorities to reduce the salt content in many day-to-day food items and aim to have only enough salt for your daily recommended needs. There are many hidden salts used as preservatives in food such as cheese, gravy, soy sauce, dry-roasted nut, prawns and olives. I bet you didn’t realise that most fruit and vegetables have natural sodium, designed by nature to give you your daily requirement, another great reason to never miss your five a day! Every restaurant has salt and pepper on the table which is almost like saying it’s a necessary condiment for your meal, and it is astonishing how many people automatically put salt on their food without even tasting it! If your food needs seasoning, there are so many other ways to enhance the flavours, so my advice is to go easy on the salt shaker as you might not even realise just how much you are overloading your system.
Reasons Why You Need to Watch Your Salt Intake.
* Fluid Retention. Your body is more liable to retain water due to excess salt, which can not only be uncomfortable but also perilous to your health. This could go on to propel swelling in the feet, ankles and joints. Excessive retention of fluid in the blood causes irregularities in major organs like the lungs, kidney and heart.
* Double Chin. Apart from increased facial fat, high salt levels can also make you have a double chin. When you don’t drink a lot of water and eat salty food, your salivary gland activates the need for more blood vessels in order to supply the glands with water for saliva secretion. These vessels often become leaky and in addition to the fluid retention mentioned above, you are left with a very puffy face particularly under your chin. Reduce your salt intake to the daily recommended consumption and increase your water intake to avoid this.
* Taste Buds. Many people with the habit of using too much salt often complain that their food doesn’t taste right, which is often the main reason they put more salt to get the desired taste. The reason for this is, excessive salt intake significantly reduces the sensitivity of your taste buds over time. However, when you reduce your salt intake, your taste bud receptors recalibrate and actify the sensory reflex – You will be able to enjoy more flavours once again.
* Weaker Bones. As we all know, calcium is very important for the bones. Eating too much salt can increase the extraction of calcium from the bones through the excretory system. It’s beneficial to know that 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, therefore when excess calcium is depleted, your bones will become weaker and more prone to fractures.
* Weight Gain. When your daily salt intake is too high, your body weight might increase. This is known as “water weight” which is a consequence of water retention in the body. Although, salt does not directly increase body fat – Nonetheless, you might not like the number on the scales or the fluffy loose feeling that water weight leaves. This weight gain is usually temporary, so endeavour to reduce salt intake and you never know, you might just drop a few extra pounds!
* Kidney Problems. The first thing that often comes to mind when we hear about kidney problems is alcohol. Did you know that one of the most common causes of problems in the kidneys is down to high salt levels which can be equally as detrimental as alcohol? Studies have shown clear links between salt and kidney stones, which can lead to serious health issues.
* Digestive Problems. Despite the fact that having adequate salt does help the body to absorb essential nutrients, having too much actually creates the opposite effect. High salt can disable the digestive process and in turn, cause the body to flush out essential vitamins and minerals.
In conclusion, it is clear that salt is imperative in your daily nutrition, so you should never aim to cut it out completely. However, you must always be aware of how much you are putting into your body. You just need to pay more attention and find the right balance. Like I always say, moderation is the key. Regular exercise, eating nutritional healthy cooked meals, drinking the correct amount of water and avoiding processed food at all costs is the only way to ensure a healthy balanced sodium level.
Stay strong, warriors.
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