Salt — worth your weight?

Fact File —

  • Salt, a chemical compound made of sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl-).  The chemical formula NaCl. 
  • About 5000 years ago, the Egyptians were the first to discover salt and its uses, primarily to preserve meat, as refrigerators were not yet invented. It is the sodium that draws the bacteria-causing moisture out of foods, causing the food to dry and stay in a preserved state without spoiling.
  • Salt comes from two main sources — sea water and sodium chloride mineral halite, also known as rock salt, which is the sediment of evaporated minerals sourced from dried up river beds, playas and lakes.
  • Sodium is essential for nerve and muscle function.
  • Sodium regulates the fluids in the body.
  • Sodium controls blood pressure.

Ever heard of the saying —“worth your weight in salt”

While it is known that salt was initially used to preserve food, it was consumed indirectly through preserved foods. Much later it became a seasoning added to all food to enhance flavor. 

Today, not a single recipe ends without the last ingredient “salt to taste,” yes on an average; humans consume almost double the daily amount of salt recommended per day. This is only multiplying despite the fact that we are told to cut down on salt intake.

Salt and what it does to our bodies is worth discussing —

Too little is not good and too much can trigger multiple health issues.

How do we find the right balance?

The answer is, you really don’t find the right balance, you keep adjusting life long by listening to your body and do what works in the moment. 

Maintaining tight control on sodium levels in your body is necessary as sodium affects the membranes of all the individual cells in your body. Ensuring that your membranes stay healthy is vital as it is through the membranes that the nutrients flow in and out of the cells and keep the cells nourished. Also messages from the brain to all parts of the body, through the nervous system require a standard amount of dietary salt for the process. 

When we eat too much salt, the sodium levels in the blood stream increase, the body responds to this increased sodium level by drawing more fluid, when fluid is increased it causes pressure against the blood vessel walls, leading to high blood pressure. 

It is a known fact that we consume much much more than we need. This is a major concern and is linked to a risk of developing high blood pressure commonly known as hypertension. If prolonged and left untreated, it can cause heart disease and stroke or kidney disease. 

 

What should we watch out for?

  • If you are salt-sensitive — this means that high salt diets affect you more than other people and you are more likely to get high blood pressure from salt consumption.
  • If you are an older adult, you could be prone to high blood pressure.
  • If you have a history of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancies)
  • If your birth weight was low.
  • If you have kidney disease.
  • If you are of African-American dissent. 

 

What precautionary measures should you take?

  • Avoid processed and ultra processed foods, 75% of our daily salt intake comes from this food.
  • Avoid packaged and frozen food, opt for freshly cooked food. 
  • Avoid papad, pickles, chutneys, sauces.
  • Avoid soybean products.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol intake.

 

  • Use rock salt, pink Himalayan salt versus refined salt in your daily food. 
  • Increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables (seven serves per day) they contain potassium, which helps your blood vessels relax. 
  • Increase physical activity.
  • Keep your weight in check.
  • Check your blood pressure regularly; your blood pressure is given with two figures, the higher one (systolic) and the lower one (diastolic). Systolic is the pressure in the artery as your heart contracts and pushes the blood through the body and diastolic pressure in the artery is when the heart is relaxing and being filled with blood. Optimal blood pressure or golden pressure is 120/80, 140/90 or higher is when you are at risk of high blood pressure and need medical intervention.

 

The lesson here is to remind you that excess salt is damaging to health, so if you are indulging in processed foods, change your lifestyle to avoid its progressive association, which means the more sodium you consume, the more likely you are to die prematurely.

Don’t get too salty now!

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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