Limiting Salt Intake

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A bowl of salt

Human body needs salt daily but research findings have revealed that too much salt in the body can cause a lot of problems

By Chinwe Okafor  |  Mar. 3, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

SALT is a white substance that is added to food to give it a better flavor or to preserve it. A small amount of salt on a daily basis is essential for the functioning of human cells. Sodium Chloride, better known as common salt, maintains the correct balance of certain fluids in the human body. However, research findings show that too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure, osteoporosis which is a bone-thinning disease, asthma, stomach cancer and weight gain.

Research findings have revealed that too much salt in the body can trigger off kidney problems because the kidney finds it hard to break down salt. Some researchers in America have found out that an increased salt intake can create an inflammatory response which can cause rapid cell growth and can trigger off stomach ulcer and also allows cancer causing carcinogenics to seep into the stomach lining.

Sodium Chloride attracts water like a sponge, so it increases fluid in the body, straining the heart and kidneys and increasing blood pressure. High sodium intake can increase body weight by up to 3lb. Findings have also revealed that many processed and prepared foods also contain sodium and almost 80 per cent of the average person’s daily salt intake comes from processed foods. Studies have shown that if the human body consumes only natural foods and limit the use of table salt, it would be able to eliminate excess salt in the diets.

But the human body cannot function optimally without salt because it is not that salt is dangerous, but too much salt is where the problem lies. The fact is that some amount of salt is needed by the body for the proper functioning of the heart and muscles.  It is believed that this amount of salt can be gotten from a normally well cooked food.  However, when we add extra salt to our food, we inadvertently put the body under undue stress, thus increasing our chances of developing hypertension.

According to dietary experts, current dietary guidelines recommend that adults in general should consume not more than 2,300 mg of salt per day and at the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. However, if one falls under the high risk population groups for hypertension, he or she should consume not more than 1,500 mg of salt. More often than not, people contending with disease conditions like hypertension, diabetes, stroke and heart disease are warned by their doctors to reduce or avoid salt.

Obiora Oji, a medical practitioner at the Military Hospital in Ikoyi, Lagos, said that high salt intake should be reduced to its barest minimum as it has been revealed to increase blood pressure, the risk of a heart attack and stroke. He emphasized the need to sensitise people to reduce the way they consume foods rich in salt. “Salt is essential to our bodies. Normally, the kidneys control the level of salt. If there is too much salt, the kidneys pass it into urine. But when our salt intake levels are very high, the kidneys cannot keep up and the salt ends up in our bloodstream. Salt attracts water.

“When there is too much salt in the blood, the salt draws more water into the blood. More water increases the volume of blood which raises blood pressure. The extra water also increases blood volume in the body and that requires your heart to work harder to move all that blood around, making your pressure go up,” Oji said. He advised that people should be careful of their salt intake as it aggravates the blood pressure. “It’s not that you shouldn’t take salt but excessive intake is what we have to guard against. The correct advice is that you should not eat salt in excess in addition to what has been added when the food was cooked.”

However, there are two main types of salt which are the refined table salt and unrefined salt. The Refined table salt is toxic to the body and triggers off many degenerative diseases including hypertension, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, glaucoma, cancer, kidney failure and heart diseases. As a matter of fact, human body recognises refined table salt as an aggressive cellular poison and an unnatural substance that must be eliminated as quickly as possible in order to protect itself while refined table salt must be avoided in order to promote health and wellness, unrefined salt must be an inseparable part of healthy diet. In other words, rather than eating no salt in the guise of promoting health, unrefined salt must be part of a healthy diet. Otherwise, the body cannot function optimally and will cave in to killer diseases we are trying to prevent or treat.

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