According to nutritionists, small amount of salt on a daily basis is essential for the functioning of healthy cells. From maintaining body fluid (the fluids which bathes the cells in the body) to helping your muscle relax. Salt plays an essential role in keeping you healthy and alive. However, most people consume far more salt than necessary, which leads to some serious diseases. Hence the need for the mantra: EAT LESS SALT!
Research has shown that a high level of salt intake can lead to a whole load of health problems. This is even scarier because 80% of the salt we take is “hidden” in processed foods, and it is slowly killing us. It attacks body cells in many ways that is dangerous.
Here are few of the ways:
#1: BLOOD PRESSURE
Salt works on the kidney to make the body hold on to more water. This extra stored water raises your blood pressure (otherwise known as hypertension). Now, what too much salt does is raise the amount of sodium that your body system receives, thereby wrecking the delicate balance in your kidney and reducing the ability of your kidney to remove the water. The end result is a HIGHER BLOOD PRESSURE due to the extra fluid retained.
A normal blood pressure is about 120/80 mmHg in men and 110/70 mmHg in women. It can be checked by using home blood pressure monitors or at a clinic using a stethoscope and a manual sphygmanometer.
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This condition seems to be the doorway to several other ailments, because overtime, it puts strains on your arteries and kidneys. And this strain can damage the liver. For some persons taking medicine for blood pressure, cutting your salt intake is of utmost importance because it will help the effectiveness of your medication.
#2: HEART DISEASE
The raised blood pressure caused by eating too much salt may damage the arteries leading to the heart. The artery becomes completely clogged, at first it may cause a slight reduction in the amount of blood reaching the heart. This may lead to sharp pains in the heart when being active.
With this condition, the cells in the heart do not work as well as they should because they are not receiving enough oxygen and nutrients. Nevertheless, lowering blood pressure may help to alleviate some of the problems and reduce the risk of greater damage, but if you continue eating salt, by and by, the damage caused by the extra blood pressure may become so severe that the arteries bursts and the part of the heart that was receiving oxygen and nutrient dies…the result is heart attack!
The best way to prevent this from happening is to stop the arteries becoming damaged and one of the best way of doing this is to keep your blood pressure on a normal scale by eating little amount of salt.
The intake of excess salt can also damage the artery leading to the brain, cutting off blood circulation which may lead to dementia because the brain is not receiving enough nutrient necessary for its smooth functioning.
The end result is STROKE: when the brain loses the ability to control the functions it used to control. In other words, stroke is a brain attack that happens when blood flowing to a certain part of the brain is cut off, depriving the brain cells of oxygen. This leads to paralysis of bodily parts or loss of speech.
In view of this, Harvard Medical School has advised that we increase the amount of potassium we take (sources of potassium includes spinach, fruits like grapes, blackberry, carrot, potato and citrus) in addition to cutting salt intake as this can lower blood pressure and prevent stroke.
#4: STOMACH CANCER
According to the United States National Cancer Institute, stomach cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the world. It also says that a high salt diet is a major risk for stomach cancer!
Salt has been found to increase the action of Bacterium Helicobacter, (this bacteria lives in the stomach and so many people carry it without any symptoms) which is the major risk for stomach cancer as it can lead to inflammation and gastric ulcer which in turn can progress into stomach cancer. Salt acts as an irritant agent of the stomach lining.
Therefore, people with or considered at risk of stomach cancer should take special care when shopping to ensure that they buy low salt version of their favorite foods. This can be done by looking at product labels in stores and being extra careful with their diets.
In a recent study, researchers found there may be a direct link between salt intake and obesity (independent of total energy intake or sugar sweetened beverage consumption). Yes, we all know that an unhealthy diet full of processed foods coupled with little to no physical activity can lead to Obesity. It is as well established that a high salt diet is significantly associated to increased risk of obesity, potentially as a result of excessive consumption of processed food high in salt and calorie.
It is believed that too much salt intake blocks the body’s ability to absorb fat, this is especially true in the case of young people. No wonder I heard that this generation has more obese people!
This is a condition that causes. Weakening of the bones, making them more prone to fracture. High salt intake has been directly linked to this condition.
Salt is believed to affect bones by causing increased calcium excretion in urine, and we know that calcium is, of course, very important in bones. In fact 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in our bones.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO EAT LESS SALT
We all love ourselves but how many of us understand that what shows on our skin is chiefly the result of what we put into the body? The potentially harmful effect of too much salt, both on your stomach and your risk of other chronic conditions cannot be overemphasized. So, wouldn’t you rather moderate your salt intake and eat less salt?
Let’s look at some of the ways to reduce your salt intake.
- Remove the salt shaker from your table! The salt in the food is enough!
- Avoid high salt soups, sauces, and stock. There are many other natural flavoring you can add to your foods to tantalize your taste bud. I try dried herbs, ginger (fresh or dry), onions, garlic, lemon juice and zest, etc.
- Choose fresh vegetables and fruits, because the frozen or canned ones are preserved with sodium. Sodium is a very effective preservative.
- Read food labels! In fact, take your time. Sodium content is usually listed on the label.
- Moderate the consumption of canned tomatoes…yes, canned tomatoes. And of course corned beef and processed potato chips.
- If you have elevated blood pressure, dietary sodium restriction can enhance your response to blood pressure.
Salt preference is an acquired taste that can be unlearned. I recently learned that it takes about 6-8 weeks to get used to eating food with much lower quantity of salt. You can do it, just make up your mind to eat right for better living. Relax, watch it and eat less salt.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Patience Jonathan is a graduate of journalism. She is a food handler and loves creative cooking. She is passionate about healthy eating and healthy living — and enjoys writing articles and designing recipes to help people eat well and live well.
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