Why Should We Cut Down Our Daily Salt Consumption and How?
High intake of salt results in high body weight because salt makes our body retain water.
Salt Intake and Risk of High Blood Pressure
Common salt found in the food is composed of two minerals – sodium and chloride. These minerals also help maintain the electrolyte balance in the blood vessels that maintains the blood pressure. While there are no adverse effects of high chloride content reported, high levels of sodium have been related with an imbalance of electrolyte activity resulting in a high blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is an important risk factor for both heart attack and stroke.
Salt Intake and Weight Management
High intake of salt results in high body weight because salt makes our body retain water. On the other hand, low salt intake may result in weight loss as it causes our body to expel water. Water takes away excess sodium through the kidneys. So a low salt and high water intake may help to lose and maintain weight.
How To Reduce Your Salt Intake
MSG is added to many processed foods to enhance taste. But MSG adds no nutritional value and it has been found to have many negative effects, including depression and headaches. Some people are more sensitive than others, but you should avoid MSG even if you are not hypersensitive. It may have long-term, cumulative effects.
Try to limit your consumption of processed and packaged foods. These types of foods are usually high in fat, salt and refined sugars. Also, if you are cooking for a large family, it can be a lot cheaper to make meals from a scratch rather than buy large numbers of packaged ready meals.
For healthful snacks when you are on the run, pre-package some homemade trail mix of salt free dried nuts and fruit. Remember that fresh fruit is already "pre-packaged"! Whole, fresh fruit like apples, oranges, bananas and pears, as well as veggies, such as carrots, are great to carry along for hassle-free nutritious snacking, anywhere.
In order to avoid spending more on healthy foods than you really need to, educate yourself by doing your own research. For example, some advocate that you can get the best health benefits from steel-cut oats, which may be more expensive. However, any oats which need to be slowly cooked or boiled have the same nutrients in them. That said, try to avoid pre-cooked oats flavored with fruit, as they can have higher salt and sugar content.
Learn to scrutinize the ingredients of foods labeled as "healthy", in order to discern what it is you're really putting in your body. For example, a dried fruit and nut mix may seem healthy at first glance, but if that mix contains lots of salt, sugar, and other "extras" (such as chocolate), then it may not be such a good choice after all. Look for mixes without these additives or, at least, those with minimal amounts of them.
Don't eat too many salty foods such as preserved meats, BBQ sauce, crisps, dips and processed cheese. Salt is popular with food manufacturers because it can enhance flavors and preserve food, however, diets high in salt can cause high blood pressure, dehydration and bloating.
A good nutritional tip is to make sure you get enough potassium in your diet. Bloating may occur when you're consuming too much sodium, and not enough potassium. Some foods that contain potassium include bananas, fish, and cantaloupe.
Avoid using excess salt when seasoning your foods. When salt is used heavily in foods, it can increase blood pressure, which can cause a heightened chance of strokes and heart attacks. Instead of using salt on your food, try using other healthy season alternatives for flavorful results when cooking.
Cook your own meals. By preparing your own meals at home instead of eating out, you can more easily control the calories contained in your meal. You are able to make healthy ingredient swaps and keep tabs on how much fat and salt are added to the dishes.
About author: Dr. PJ Prakash has a Ph.D. in Nutrition from the Univ. of Rhode Island (USA). Visit his website to download your Nutritional Weight Loss eCourse or healthy Indian recipes.