Salt: Too much of a good thing

The 16 March marked the start of salt awareness week. Here’s how cutting down on your sodium intake can do wonders for your health

Most of us have long heard that it’s best to go easy on the salt shaker. But a recent study has confused the issue somewhat.

What the stats say

The American Journal of Medicine posted a report that states that people who reported eating limited salt were found to be 37 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease (conditions such as stroke and heart disease) than people who ate more salt.

But, experts say, it’s important to keep in mind that this is just one study, compared with scores of others that have found health benefits to avoiding a high-sodium diet.

According to dieticians, 1 500 milligrams of sodium is the ideal daily goal for middle-aged adults and people with high blood pressure. The rest should aim for less than 2 300 milligrams of sodium a day – the equivalent of about 1 teaspoon of salt.

New research shows that a high-salt diet may have a negative effect on our bodies’ levels of vitamin D – a vitamin considered important to many aspects of health.

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There is also some evidence that a high-sodium intake increases calcium losses in urine which is bad for bone density. Too much sodium may also contribute to the development of kidney stones.

And let’s not even get started on the topic of heart disease. Research has shown a connection between high-salt intake and an increase in blood pressure in certain people who are considered ‘salt sensitive’.

How to kick your high salt intake

  1. Stay Away from Processed Foods

About 75 percent of the average person’s salt intake is believed to come from processed food – so try and stay away completely and make your own meals from scratch. If you have no other choice, then be sure to check out the sodium listed on the product’s label.

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  1. Cut Back on Condiments

Salad dressing and tomato sauce – to name a few –contain hidden traces of salt. So it’s best to dress your salad and burgers yourself. Rather opt for balsamic vinegar, mustard, lemon juice or low-sodium light mayonnaise as they have less calories and contain less sodium.

  1. Opt for Alternatives

Purchase a battery-operated pepper grinder and your favourite flavour of salt-free herb and spice blend to add extra flavour to your dishes. Then keep them front and centre on your kitchen table to help you break the habit of salting your food. Most food contains its own natural salt so adding more isn’t usually necessary.

  1. Forgo Fast Food

Eating at fast-food chains may be fast and cheap, but you pay the price in calories, bad fat, and sodium. Many fast-food items are big on sodium and offer more than your daily intake in just one meal. It’s really not worth it.

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  1. Find the Balance

Beyond lowering sodium intake, all experts urge that more people maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, lose weight, stop smoking, and take steps to avoid stress. That makes it far more likely they will lower their blood pressure and lead healthier lives.