Salt. We add it to practically everything we eat and it’s in nearly every processed food out there. A little salt is needed in the body to help maintain the fluid in our cells. Salt actually assists in the absorption of water into our cells; that is why ingesting too much salt can cause oedema, or swelling.
According to the Better Health Channel (www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au) people average more than double their recommended daily intake of salt. It is suggested that you only have up to 4 grams per day, with 6 grams still being acceptable.
Although you may assume cutting back on the amount of salt you put into and onto your food would be the best way to cut back, you actually get 75% of the salt you ingest, from processed foods; white bread being one of the largest contributors.
Also on the list of processed foods to avoid are:
- Potato chips
- Processed meats like sausages, hot dogs and salami
- Canned veggies
- Instant soups and pastas
- Pre-packaged condiments like teriyaki, soy and tomato sauce
I know what you’re thinking; this looks like your grocery list. But it isn’t all bad; in addition to cutting back on the salt you physically add, eating fresh veggies instead of canned, eating whole-wheat or multi-grain bread and limiting how often and how much you use certain condiments, are all ways to take your salt level down to a healthy level.
A common misconception is that the popular sea salt is the safe alternative. The truth is that sea salt actually contains 98% sodium chloride where regular table salt contains 97.5% sodium chloride. The problem lies in the salt refining process. Sea salt and table salt both go through the exact same refining process which removes 82 of the 84 minerals found in sea water.
In fact, refining salt is not done primarily to create salt for commercial use, but rather industrial. According to www.leaflady.org, “only 7% of the salt that is manufactured goes for food”. The rest is used in making everything from fertilizers to plastics and explosives.
A healthy alternative to use is something called Celtic sea salt. Unlike regular salt, this salt is completely unrefined and has all 84 elements still intact due to a process of sun and air drying.
Some of the health conditions related to high salt intake are: heart failure; kidney problems; gastric and stomach cancer; stroke; and osteoporosis.
But probably the most common ailment associated with excessive salt intake is high blood pressure. Normally in your body, any surplus salt is simply passed into the urine. But when there are large amounts, the kidneys can’t keep up and it then gets dumped into our bloodstream. Since salt and water (which is brought into our blood via the salt) are attracted to each other, more and more water is brought into the bloodstream which then results in high blood pressure.
Some tips in reducing your daily intake of salt are:
- Choose fresh vegetables over canned
- Avoid adding salt while cooking or at the table
- Cut back on processed foods and make a habit of reading labels
- Cut out fast food which is usually high in salt and processed
- Use things like fresh garlic, onion and other spices to season instead of salt
- Choose reduced salt items at the grocery whenever possible
Although virtually impossible to eradicate from your diet, salt, in healthy amounts is actually necessary to our bodies. Putting the shaker down and making healthier, salt-reduced choices can make a dramatic difference to our overall health.