How much salt is too much salt? Let’s hear what researchers have to say

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Salt is an omnipresent ingredient in every food item. It is an essential electrolyte needed by your body for many important functions.

The presence of salt can be seen in every food from manufactured food products to homemade food items while the usage of the salt differs according to the persons.

To function properly your body needs a small amount of sodium, but too much of sodium can be bad for your health.

According to the experts, the increased risk of developing high blood pressure is associated with a high sodium diet, which is a significant cause of stroke, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease. Therefore, many health authorities have established guidelines for limiting sodium intake.

According to guidelines issued by World Health Organization (WHO), adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium, or 5 grams of salt, per day for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, the leading cause of death globally.

However, data from different countries indicate that most people consume more salt than recommended, which causes severe health issues. About 75 percent of the salt in the diet of some countries comes from refined food and meals prepared outside the home. And other countries especially low or middle-income countries, the sodium consumption comes from salt added at home in cooking and at the table or through condiments such as fish sauce and soy sauce.

Importance of Intake

By keeping the overconsumption kept aside, salt is a necessary nutrient for good health. It is one of the electrolytes in your body, the minerals which create electrically charged ions. A major source of sodium in most diets is added salt in the form of sodium chloride.

Most of your body’s sodium resides in your blood and the fluid surrounding your cells, where it helps keep these fluids in balance. Sodium plays an important role in maintaining normal fluid balance as well as in normal nerve and muscle function. Your kidneys help regulate your body sodium levels by adjusting the amount that is excreted in your urine. You also lose sodium through sweating.

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The danger of under consumption

Some research indicates that it may be dangerous to limit the consumption of sodium to lower than recommended levels.

In a review study comprising more than 133,000 people with and without high blood pressure from 49 countries across six continents, researchers examined how sodium intake affected the risk of heart disease and early death.

The study found that individuals who ate less than 3,000 mg (3 grams) of sodium a day were more likely to have heart disease or die, regardless of blood pressure, compared to individuals who ate 4,000-5,000 mg (4-5 grams). And also those who consumed less than 3,000 mg (3 grams) of sodium per day had worse health outcomes than people consuming 7,000 mg (7 grams)

So in both people with high and normal blood pressure, consuming too little sodium has been shown to worsen health more than consuming too much.

Tips which help to control the intake

Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables: Skip processed foods, like cured meats, canned goods, bagged items, and frozen foods, and spend more time to cook food.

Read labels: Do not buy canned goods with more than 200 mg of sodium per serving, or processed foods. Keep in mind that a product labeled “no salt” may have other ingredients that contain sodium.

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Cook yourself: Restaurant items contain higher amounts of sodium to keep the food fresh. So cook your own food to control the sodium level.

Cook without salt: Try to cook with herbs and spices for flavourings, such as oregano, garlic, thyme, chilli powder, rosemary, and any other seasoning. Also, avoid adding salt at the table.

Be aware of natural sodium sources: Meat, dairy products, bread and shellfish contain sodium, so be sure to limit your intake of these foods if you controlling salt intake.