Living in an Indian household, your food can never be complete without salt. Salt is the most well-known flavouring agent and food preservative. It is the most common seasoning used in households across the world. However, the use of salt has always been a topic of debate when it comes to health. While some people say too much salt is bad for your health, others claim that salt is extremely necessary for maintaining body functions.
While too much salt is linked with hypertension, too little iodised salt may result in iodine deficiency. Every year, 21st October is observed as World Iodine Deficiency Day to mark the importance of iodine in maintaining proper functioning of the thyroid gland, which is necessary for normal growth and development.
Eventually, it comes down to understanding exactly how much salt is enough and when does it become too much.
Why is too much salt bad for you?
When a person eats too much salt, their body tries to retain water in the body in order to dilute the salt. Due to this excess volume of water in the body, the heart works harder to push more liquid through the blood vessels. The harder pumping of the heart ends up putting more force on the blood vessels. This excess pressure results in hypertension and can also damage the blood vessels, thus increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure. The sodium in the salt is believed to cause all of these problems.
People already diagnosed with high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease must not consume too much salt.
Why is too little salt bad for you?
Salt contains sodium, which is necessary for maintaining the electrolyte balance of the body by moving water in and around the cells. Studies have shown that lack of salt in the body can result in insulin resistance, thus increasing the risk of diabetes. It has also been evident that a low salt diet can increase the levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, which are harmful to the heart. Low salt diet can also result in hyponatremia, which occurs due to lack of sodium in the food. Mild hyponatremia may present as nausea, headache, confusion and fatigue. However, severe cases of hyponatremia can result in brain swelling, seizures, coma and even death.
Salt is also the most important source of iodine. Due to the lack of iodine in the body, the person may suffer from goitre and other thyroid problems.
How much salt is too much?
It is extremely difficult to measure sodium in your daily diet. Also, studies have shown that some people are more sensitive to salt than others. People who are more sensitive to salt, experience a drop in their blood pressure when they reduce their salt intake.
Considering various studies, it has been concluded that consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day can benefit the cardiovascular system. Also, people with high blood pressure or any cardiovascular disease should consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
The best way to keep an eye on your sodium intake is to read labels before buying or consuming any food item. Try to ensure that each serving of food has less than 100 mg of sodium.
For more information, read our article on salt deficiency.
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