Limiting salt intake is one of the basic dietary principles we’ve all heard for years. Salt is, of course, an essential part of the human diet, but within reason. Excess salt has negative side effects that can impact a person’s health and lifestyle greatly. Today we’re exploring signs you are eating too much salt and how to reduce salt in your diet.
Benefits of Salt
First, the good news about salt. In moderation, salt contains vital components necessary for normal bodily functions. Salt is a mineral made of mostly sodium but also contains iodine and chloride. It is a crucial electrolyte that maintains proper water retention in the body. Salt is also responsible for muscle contractions and the enzymes and secretions vital for digestion and the breakdown of food for nutrients, absorption and energy. A balance of dietary sodium helps ensure the body retains enough water, especially for adequate blood flow. Without it, bodies can easily become dehydrated and not operate at their maximum capacity.
Affects of Too Much Salt
On the other hand, too much salt wreaks havoc on the body. Specifically, excessive salt is extremely dangerous for the heart, brain and bones. Too much salt leads to fluid retention and may cause high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke or other heart related conditions. Salt is known to impair cognitive function over time and may even contribute to brain degenerative diseases. The mineral is also responsible for calcium loss and therefore thinning bones associated with osteoporosis. The kidneys, skin and digestive system all suffer from an overdose of salt as well. The recommended daily intake of salt is just 6 grams, but most people consume well above this amount.
Are you Eating Too Much Salt?
The modern American diet is laden with salt, often in hidden places. Many processed foods use salt as a preservative and flavor booster, but it’s certainly a health reducer. Many fast food and restaurant foods contain excessive salt too. Signs of eating too much salt include bloating, swelling, dehydration, thirstiness, and other conditions such as hypernatremia, which is when kidneys cannot handle excessive salt and dehydration. If you notice any of these symptoms or are experiencing heart problems or lack of focus, you may want to speak to your physician about having your blood tested for too much salt intake.
How to Combat Too Much Salt Intake
Luckily, by making a conscious effort to reduce your salt intake, you can greatly improve your health as it is related to the negative side effects of salt. First, limit processed foods and fast food. When possible, read labels or research the sodium content of your favorite restaurant foods. Seeing the numbers may help you make better choices. In the grocery store, look for “low sodium” versions of your favorite foods and select fresh fruits, vegetables and meats rather than pre-packaged versions. When cooking, use light salt and reduce the amount of salt called for in recipes. Chances are you won’t even notice the difference. Be aware of adding table salt to your foods. If you crave salt for flavor, try different natural spices instead as these may offer great flavor alternatives.
Salt is an important part of our diet but, like most things in life, it’s all about balance. Too much salt can negatively impact your health. Make smart salt choices by first being aware of your salt intake and then taking small steps to reduce salt in your diet.