Should We Eat Less Salt? How Much Salt One Should Intake?- A Guide To Keeping Good Health.
What is salt ?
Salt is a white crystalline substance which is used for seasoning or preserving food. Wikipedia defines common salt as a mineral compound, primarily consisting of Sodium chloride(NaCl), a chemical compound.
Sea salt, in it's natural form has small quantity of trace elements, which is considered good for plant and animal health. Sea salt is considered the best.
Table salt is refined salt containing 97-99% Sodium Chloride. Iodized salt is recommended for comsumption. It is the table salt mixed with small amount of Potassium Iodide, Sodium Iodide or Sodium Iodate. To lower the problem of iodine deficiency, iodized salt is introduced.
Salt collected from different sources and from different locations differ in taste. Table salt contains 40% sodium by weight.
Functions of salt in our body
- Our body requires electrolytes. Salt acts as an electrolyte to help carry out electrical impulses that control bodily functions. Electrolytes make us feel thirsty and induce for drinking water. With the help of this water, kidneys are able to keep sufficient electrolytes in our blood stream.
- Salt is important for nerves to induce muscle contraction; thereby, preventing muscle cramps. Salt helps to maintain calcium and other minerals in the blood stream. Adrenal glands get stimulation from salt. Salt helps in the prevention of sunstroke during summer.
- Salt has nutrients which help in digestion and absorption. Salivary amylase, an enzyme gets activated by salt, during which time, it helps taste buds to taste food. Stomach acid is hydrochloric acid and salt is sodium chloride, both these are needed for good digestion.
Importance of adding salt in our foods
Salt gives amazing taste. It is used in many cuisines around the world. A Polish proverb says,"Without salt the feast is spoiled." A quote from Nelson Mandela refers to salt. He says,"Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all." Adding salt in a moderate quantity in your diet has numerous health benefits. It plays an important role in the bodily functioning like water retention, muscle contraction and is vital for working of stomach. Salt is present in a small amount in naturally occuring food stuffs such as plants, fruits and vegetables.
Earlier, adding salt was the main method of preservation. Adding adequate quantity of salt enhances the taste of food, making it enjoyable. It makes us easily satisfied, even with a less quantity of food rather than eating large quantity of salt free food. Thus, it controls the amount of food intake.
Normal processed salt is good for health, however, unrefined salt is the best, as it contains a small quantity of trace minerals and is free of additives. Himalayan salt and Celtic salt are two such varieties.
Bars and restaurants serve salty snacks as complimentary
The idea behind this is, eating salty snack induces thirst and people crave to drink more. A great business tactics!!
Consequenses of lack of salt
Sodium deficiency is the underlying health condition. Lack of salt in the body induces dehydration, may lead to shock, lowering blood pressure. Lack of salt may disturb the tissue water and acid-base level which is important for nutrition.
Results of excess salt consumption
Diets high in Sodium can lead to more water retention and hypertension. The maximum amount of salt one should intake from all sources should be around 2400-3000 mg or 1 tsp per day. We should also note here that processed food, potato wafers, salty snacks, processed meat, canned food contain excess salt, consuming of which is bad for health. One should cut down eating these foods.
Eating salt in moderate quantity is the best!!
According to British Heart Foundation, you are not recommended to eat more salt if you have hypertension or kidney disease. If you have Thyroid problem, the salt intake will have some beneficial effect. Even by adding less salt, you can get the delicious taste by including herbs, spices, seasonings, garlic, onion and ginger in your cooking.
Though the total quantity of salt one may consume in a day is around 6-8 gms, you should consider the salt intake through natural foods like fruits and vegetables, packed foods, processed foods etc, while calculating the total intake. Developing a taste for recommended quantity of salt is the key for good health.