Salt salt salt... It certainly went through a lot in the history of the world. In ancient times salt was a highly prized commodity with an exchange rate equal to gold. In today's world however, it is one of the cheapest condiments, and one that we certainly overuse. Today's post will dig into one of salt's main components: sodium.
Sodium is an electrolyte absolutely necessary for human survival. Our bodies need it to maintain the right balance of fluids, transmit nerve impulses, and contract and relax muscles.
The average American consumes more than twice the recommended amount of 2/3 tsp of sodium per day. In excess that can become toxic. High sodium intake puts us at risk of coronary disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, sleeping issues and excess weight. According to scientists at the University of Delaware, high salt intake may impair the inner lining of blood vessels, increase arterial stiffness, weaken the heart and kidney function, and interfere with sympathetic nervous system.
Food manufacturers use salt for flavor, color, texture, and to extend shelf life. The highest sources of sodium are found in processed and packaged foods such as frozen dinners, pizza, cold cuts and cured meats, sandwiches, crackers, breads, rolls, cookies, chips, soups, sauces as well as in fast foods and restaurant meals.
Why too much salt is bad for us?
- causes water retention,
- causes high blood pressure - sodium is one of the key players in regulating blood pressure,
- can lead to bone loss - too much sodium causes our body to excrete calcium through urine,
- kidney disease due to high blood pressure which causes damage to small vessels in the kidneys,
- stomach cancer - salt is believed to increase the growth of Helicobacter pylori (H pylori), a bacteria which is linked to higher risk of stomach cancer,
- weight gain (it changes the way your body metabolizes fat by increasing insulin production,)
- it's addictive (research shows that consuming a lot of salt triggers the release of dopamine, the reward hormone),
- eating a lot of salty foods increases cravings,
- increases thirst.
What can we do about all this?
Tune in for part 2 (coming next week) on how to reduce sodium intake in your diet.