Salt is a loved seasoning that tickles the tastebuds and adds flavor depth to meals. Salt is a combination of sodium and chloride. Sodium plays a role in vital functions of the body including muscle contractions, supporting nerve impulses, maintaining the proper balance of water in the body’s cells.The necessary amount of salt required for these functions, however, is a mere 500 mg per day. With a teaspoon of table salt coming in at a whopping 2,300 mg of sodium, we must be aware of the troubles that come with consuming excess salt.
One of the main reasons to limit salt intake is to support a healthy heart as heart disease has been well established as a leader in cause of death in adults especially in America. Salt is excellent at absorbing water and increasing fluid retention in the body making the heart pump harder to supply the body with blood. This can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure, heart attack, or even a stroke over time.
Research shows that eating less salt for four weeks brought blood pressure down in people who already had hypertension and in people with normal blood pressure. The studies showed that a decrease in 4.4 grams was effective. With a diet change like this, it is possible to improve heart health and lifespan overall and can decrease the need to take pharmaceuticals which tend to come with a laundry list of side effects. That said, when considering a major diet change, especially for those on medication, it is extremely important to discuss the plan with a healthcare provider who can make it a safe transition. Steering clear of 4.4 grams of sodium could be as simple as avoiding adding the two tablespoons of salt used when cooking a dish and instead use a substitute.
Potassium chloride is a known “salt-like” substitute that can unfortunately lead to other problems for people with existing kidney issues and should be avoided. Trading in salt for fresh or dried herbs and spicy additions are preferable options to add variety. Another tip is to cook in at home more than eat out since prepared foods typically have a much larger salt content. Saying sayonara to salt can take time, but with consistency and some creativity, it can change your life for the better.
Salt and Sodium. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/
Effect of longer term modest salt reduction on blood pressure: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials. BMJ, 2014. https://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f1325