Hello, Sarah. Why should we eat less salt ? and How ? By Abby
Over the last few years, since starting Days to Fitness, I have learned a lot about nutrition, and I have used what I have learned to help myself and help others. I’m an advocate of healthy eating for kids, I want everyone to eat less sugar (20 no-sugar days challenge it’s 100% Free), and I have done a lot of reading and research on the dangers of sugar.
It was during my research that I learned about the dangers of another common thing found in our food – salt.
Salt tastes good and is added to a lot of the food we eat, but it’s also potentially unhealthy when consumed in large amounts. Most people eat way too much salt, but that’s often because it is added to so many processed and convenience foods.
Everybody needs a little salt, specifically the sodium within salt, in their diets – it’s necessary for things like fluid balance and transmitting nerve signals, and the recommended daily limit is 6 grams per day. However, as many as 52% of the population consume much more than this, and some people eat more than double this amount!
What makes salt so unhealthy? That’s a good question. After all, it’s fat, sugar, and calorie-free.
Salt is a leading cause of high blood pressure – a very common and severe medical condition. As salt levels build up in your body, so to do fluid levels. Some of that fluid enters and remains in your blood which means that blood volume increases and that extra blood has no way of escaping.
Your blood circulates inside a closed network of vessels called arteries and veins. If the pressure of the blood is allowed to become excessively high, the walls of the blood vessels become damaged. This provides the ideal surface for fatty deposits to accumulate and build up which harden and become atherosclerotic plaque.
Atherosclerotic plaque further increases blood pressure and can reduce blood flow to essential organs such as the heart, kidneys, and brain. Needless to say, reducing blood flow, and therefore the oxygen supply, to any part of your body is never a good idea. High blood pressure also puts a lot of strain on virtually every organ in your body including your eyes.
Reduced blood flow to the heart can also lead to coronary artery disease which is a type of heart disease and the leading cause of death in the United States of America. If you have high blood pressure, anything over 140/80 mmHg, and want to lower it, you really must try to eat less salt. And most importantly
You don’t have to use salt to make a meal taste good
Here are FIVE effective strategies for doing this.
1. Follow the DASH diet
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and is a special diet designed specifically to lower salt and sodium intake and reduce blood pressure. It’s a very simple diet based on natural foods like whole grains, fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats and fish, and healthy fats.
There are two DASH diet variations – one that is low in salt and one that is REALLY low in salt. Both have also been shown to be effective for weight loss and controlling diabetes.
2. Use LoSalt
LoSalt is a low sodium alternative to salt. It looks like salt, tastes like salt, but contains potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride. It costs a little more than “real salt, ” but by removing most of the sodium, this product will help lower your blood pressure instead of elevating it. You can buy LoSalt from Amazon.com.
3. Taste your food before adding salt
Many of use add salt out of habit and before we even taste our food to see if we need it – crazy but true! If you are one of those people, stop and sample your food before reaching for the salt shaker, and you may find that your food doesn’t need any salt. Also, try to add less salt during cooking to reduce your salt intake dramatically.
4. Look before you shake
It’s very easy to add more salt than you realize because, when you sprinkle salt onto a moist food, it disappears almost instantly. Because you can’t see how much salt you have put on your food, you are very likely to use more than you need.
Avoid this problem by sprinkling your salt on your hand first so that you can see exactly how much you are about to put on your food. When in doubt, use less and not more than you think you need.
5. Use non-salt seasonings
You don’t have to use salt to make a meal taste good – you can use a host of alternative seasonings that are completely sodium-free. Herbs and spices can jazz up a meal, and many of them are really healthy too. Garlic, onion, curry, cinnamon, basil, chives, cilantro, paprika, chili, pepper, sage, turmeric, and cayenne paper are all excellent choices.
Whether you have high blood pressure or just want to avoid it, cutting down on your daily salt intake is an excellent idea. Become more label-savvy, avoid foods that contain a lot of salt, and use the five suggestions above to further reduce your salt intake.
High blood pressure can be treated with drugs, but those drugs are expensive and come with a host of unwanted side effects. They also tend to treat the symptoms of high blood pressure and not the cause. Like too much sugar, too much salt is undeniably bad for you so start cutting down today!
Let me know your questions or find more questions at “Ask Sarah”.