SALT; OUR BEST FRIEND AND OUR WORST ENEMY
There is nothing like having no salt in your rice, potato, egg etc. Many of us consume so much salt. A little salt to give your food that lovely taste is perfect. Too much salt is bad for your health. Do you know that too much salt can cause a high blood pressure, which puts you at increased risk of health problems such as heart disease and stroke?
You don't have to add salt to food to be taking too much salt – 75% of the salt we eat is already in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, crisp and ready meals.
In Today’s world, salt is bountiful and low-priced, but it wasn't always that way. The chemical name for dietary salt, or table salt, is sodium chloride. Researchers have linked sodium to high blood pressure. Since 90% of the sodium we ingest is from salt, it is hard to separate the effect of salt and sodium high blood pressure.
However it is the sodium in the salt Doctors focus on: scientific research shows that excessive salt intake increases blood pressure, while reducing salt intake on the other hand reduces blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps out blood. When this pressure rises—a condition called high blood pressure, or hypertension—it can damage the body in many ways over time. High blood pressure has been linked to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and other health problems.
Blood pressure has 2 numbers which is usually written one above or beside the other. The one above is Systolic, the pressure when the heart beats, pumping blood through the arteries. The one below is Diastolic; this is the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. The normal blood pressure number is 120/80 mmHg and it should exceed this number.
Some research also suggests that excessive salt intake might increase the risk of stomach cancer. Scientists continue to look into this possible link and it is yet to be concluded.
Sensitivity to salt varies from person to person. From scientific experiments, there’s lots of variation in the blood pressure response. Certain groups of people see greater reductions in blood pressure when they lower their salt intake: Africans, African-Americans, older people and people with blood pressure above normal.
The required amount of salt for a full grown adult in a day is 6 g a day (NHS) and that is equivalent to a teaspoon full. The daily recommended maximum amount of salt children should take depends on age:
1 to 3 years – 2 g salt a day (0.8 g sodium)
4 to 6 years – 3 g salt a day (1.2 g sodium)
7 to 10 years – 5 g salt a day (2 g sodium)
11 years and over – 6 g salt a day (2.4 g sodium)
(Figures culled from NHS)
There are lots of foods out there with very high salt content; these include bacon, cheese, fried potato, prawns, salted and dry roasted nuts, salt fish, smoked meat and fish, stock cubes, crisps, pizza, sausages (hot dogs) etc.
The salt we sprinkle on our food actually accounts for less than 10% of our salt consumption. Most of the salt we take salt comes in processed foods from stores, restaurants and dining halls. You may already know that fast food, and canned foods tend to have a lot of salt.
Lots of people actually don’t realize that majority of salt we consume can be found in bread and cereals. Studies have found that over 20% of the salt in the average African diet comes from grain products, such as bread, cereals, crackers and chips
HOW CAN YOU CONTROL YOUR SALT INTAKE?
It is simple and also a very difficult task to do especially when you can’t but not eat a decent meal without salt in it. Of course, one easy way to eat less salt is to stop adding salt to your food during cooking and at the dinner table. If you regularly add salt to food when cooking, try cutting it out or adding less. You’ll rediscover the real tastes of your favourite foods. And when you sit down to eat, taste your food first to see if it needs salt.
Parents should also cultivate the habit of not letting their kids get used to too much salt. Developing babies require less than 1 Salg of salt a day, as their kidneys can’t cope with more. If babies are breastfed, they would get the right amount of salt from breast milk. Formula milk contains a similar amount, so avoid adding salt to baby food. Also don’t give food that has a high salt content to babies. Making sure your child doesn't eat too much salt means you’re also helping to ensure that they don’t develop a taste for salty food, which makes them less likely to eat too much salt as an adult.
High blood pressure frequently has no symptoms, but if you do have it you are more likely to develop a heart attack or a stroke. Cutting down on salt lowers blood pressure, which means that your risk of having a stroke or developing heart disease is reduced.
Beyond salt, a healthy eating plan can help keep your blood pressure under control. Why not start now? Make small changes at first, and then keep working to gradually lower your family’s salt intake.
Last Updated: 13-Jul-2017 10:09 AM