Salt Intake: Why Less Is More

Salt is well-known as a flavoring agent and food preservative. The practice of preserving food with salt might have started by chance. Some historians say that salt’s ability to preserve food was discovered after noting that a forgotten piece of food in salt had lasted longer than another in fresh air. This became a founding contributor to the development of civilization as it offered the possibility to take food to distant places. This is the case of fish and other seasonal food.

Salt as seasoning is another well-known fact. It is used around the world to enhance the taste of food. Salt makes bland food, such as bread and pasta, palatable, and it also brings out the natural flavors in other kinds of food.

Over recent years, however, a government-backed campaign encouraging the public to cut down on salt intake has gained a lot of media attention. It highlights the many damaging effects of overconsuming salt on people’s health. According to Mayo Clinic, salt is easy to overconsume because one teaspoon of it alone is 25 milligrams more than the recommended daily allowance.

Before heading to the next soft pretzel shop or reaching for that pickled vegetable, learn more about the potential dangers of overindulging in salty food.

High Blood Pressure

Salt helps the body retain water. The extra water stored in the body raises blood pressure. Blood pressure does not stay the same throughout the day. But if it stays high for a long time, it can lead to heart disease and strokes, which are the top causes of health-related deaths in the United States. An adult should consume no more than six grams of salt a day. But the latest data shows that people are consuming an average of eight grams a day. Most of this salt is hidden in processed food such as cereal and takeaway meals.

Heart Attack and Stroke

person that suffered a stroke

Eating salty food can also reduce blood flow to the heart and brain. This can cause a heart attack and a stroke. As mentioned above, these two are the leading causes of death in Americans. Limiting salt is particularly important for someone who is prone to or already has heart disease risk factors such as excess body fat and high blood pressure.

In 2016 alone, cardiovascular disease was responsible for approximately 900,000 deaths. New or recurrent strokes happen to around 800,000 Americans every year. The risk factors around heart attacks and strokes are so widespread that a number of government-backed initiatives have been put in place to drive awareness and take action.

One such program was a nationwide project put up by the Center for Disease Control’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP) in 2016. The program called “The Sodium Reduction in Communities Program” aims to implement strategies to reduce salt intake. It targeted hospitals, schools, restaurants, and other local organizations.

Kidney Stones

These form in the body when urine contains more of certain chemicals than the fluid in the urine can dilute. Once these chemicals become concentrated enough, they form crystals or stones, which can make their way into the urinary tract. When the stones start blocking the flow of urine, they cause pain. Preventing kidney stones is not complicated. One effective way of preventing them is by reducing salt intake. A high-salt diet can trigger kidney stones because it increases the amount of protein in the urine.

Salt does not only enhance the flavors of food and prolong shelf life, but it also provides essential materials that act as important electrolytes in the body. Despite these benefits, too much salt poses numerous health risks stated above. When it comes to dietary sodium, less is certainly best.

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