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Salt (sodium chloride) in the Diet

Posted Apr 26 2009 12:00am

Salt is crucial for our health, the amount of salt that we eat has a direct effect on our health and blood pressure. The more salt we eat the higher our blood pressure. This is true, not only in people with  high blood pressure, but also in people with normal blood pressure.

What is Sodium?

Sodium is an essential mineral or micronutrient which along with potassium helps to regulate the body’s fluid balance. Unlike other minerals, sodium (or sodium chloride aka salt) has a recognizable and popular taste, and is widely added to snack foods and other processed foods.

High Sodium Salt

A high sodium salt intake also causes other health damage, such as greater retention of water in your body, which leads to swelling of the ankles and weight gain. Too much salt also worsens thinning of the bones (osteoporosis), asthma and kidney disease and is closely related to cancer of the stomach. Therefore, everyone should cut the amount of salt they eat to improve their health.
The body uses sodium, potassium and other electrolytes to maintain a healthy fluid balance, and avoid dehydration. Thus sodium intake is linked to water retention and associated swelling (edema). Excess intake of salt is one of the commonest reasons why people develop fluid retention. Dietitians typically advise people with water-retention problems to eat fewer processed foods, add less salt when cooking and remove the salt shaker from the table. How much sodium should edema sufferers consume? One leading expert recommends women to reduce their daily sodium intake to 1,000 milligrams. (Normal Sodium RDA is 3,500 milligrams). A good low-sodium diet plan to follow is the DASH diet, which also helps to lower blood pressure.

How to Reduce In take

Eating a low-salt diet is one of the most important lifestyle changes people with heart failure can make. About 70 percent of the sodium in diet comes from processed foods such as canned soups, lunch meats and fast food, not from salt added to home-cooked meals.  Observe the sodium RDA and limit the amount of sodium that you consume from all these sources to no more than 2,400 milligrams (mg) each day which is equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt.

  • Eat canned soups, or broths, or bouillon cubes, sparingly. These foods can be very high in sodium.
  • Do not add salt to your food at the table
  • Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed types.
  • Avoid bacon, unless sodium-free.
  • Avoid salted nuts, chips and other snackfoods.
  • Switch to low sodium margarine, or low-salt butter.
  • Use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends instead of salt, in cooking and at the table.
  • Cut back on instant or flavored rice, which usually have added salt.
  • Choose “convenience” foods that are lower in sodium.
  • Cut back on frozen dinners, mixed dishes such as pizza mixes, packaged mixes, and salad dressings.
  • Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals that are lower in sodium.

Reduce Sodium in Meals

* Add less salt at the table and in cooking. Reduce the amount a little each day until none is used. Try spices and herbs instead, or sodium-free bouillon. Sprinkle lemon juice over vegetables, season or marinate meat, poultry, and fish ahead of time with onion, garlic, and your favorite herbs before cooking to bring out the flavor.
* Cook with low-salt ingredients. Remove salt from recipes whenever possible. Rice, pasta, and hot cereals can be cooked with little or no salt.
* Use fewer sauces, mixes, and “instant” products this includes flavored rices, pasta, and cereal, which usually have salt added.
* Rinse salt from canned foods.
sodiumcomparisontable Salt (sodium chloride) in the Diet

For healthy living
Take plenty of vegetables, fruits and seeds alongside taking exercise, not becoming overweight and not drinking too much alcohol, are other factors important in preventing high blood pressure. Replacing salty processed foods with fresh foods is likely to be beneficial for reasons other than just salt. It is overall diet and lifestyle that matter, not just one component.
Instead of salt try other flavourings and use fresh foods such as: Any fresh, frozen or dried herbs ; All spices ; Lemon and lime juice ; Vinegar ; Red or white wine ; Cider or beer Onions ;
garlic ; shallots ; ginger ; chilies, etc

Note: There is a clear health risk in eating salt, not just for blood pressure but also because of links to osteoporosis, stomach cancer and other health problems. Since it is difficult to measure salt sensitivity and much of the salt in our diet is unnecessary, the best advice is to cut down and save lives.

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