Table salt (which is a combination of sodium and chloride) has been an important part of the human diet for centuries. In fact, the ability to taste saltiness is one of our basic human characteristics. Salt can bring out the flavor of foods, help to preserve our food, and even helps to transport vital nutrients around our bodies. But despite all the good aspects of salt, we often hear how detrimental it is to our overall wellbeing. So what is the story with salt, sodium and our health?
Common table salt is really a combination of sodium (40%) and chloride (60%) and it's the sodium in salt that, if eaten too much of, can play havoc with our health. So while it's true that sodium is an important element and helps to provide balance and ensure our body is functioning properly, just like most things in life, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.
The USDA recommends limiting sodium to less than 2300 mg a day (1,500 mg if you're age 51 or older, have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease). One teaspoon of salt is equivalent to 2,300 milligrams of sodium. It's not a lot.
Too much sodium affects our health in a myriad of ways. There are those small, annoying things like water retention and slowing of weight loss (due to extra water weight), to some serious life-threatening health conditions. Some of the more insidious consequences of consuming too much sodium include:High blood pressure and heart disease: Salt causes your body to retain water, which causes your blood volume to increase, which in turn causes high blood pressure. High blood pressure forces your heart to work twice as hard to move the blood around your body which strains the heart and can eventually lead to heart disease.
We're not advocating a completely sodium-free diet, but rather one in which salt is consumed in moderation.
Due to the fact that it's a great preservative, sodium can be found in a lot of processed foods, which makes sense. But what's disturbing is that you'll find sodium is lurking in a lot of unsuspecting places. Just start reading the labels and you'll be amazed where you'll find it.
Salt, or sodium chloride, by itself is not bad for our health. And in fact, our bodies need a certain amount of sodium to function properly. However, consumed in large quantities, salt and one of it's primary components, sodium, can be extremely dangerous to our health. Adopting a common sense approach of moderation will ensure you are getting the right amount of sodium and your overall health will benefit greatly.
Author: Sue Ridgeway