Salt is a mineral made from sodium chloride and it’s the sodium in salt and how it affects our body that means we need to limit how much we consume. Salt has been used for many years to add flavour and as a preservative but too much can cause health problems!
The human body does require a small amount of salt to contract and relax muscles, conduct nerve impulses and maintain a proper fluid balance. It’s unusual not to have enough salt in our diet as it’s in so many of the foods we eat. In fact, many of us are consuming too much!
Having more salt than you need can cause high blood pressure. Our kidneys play a vital role by removing water from our blood to regulate our blood pressure. If there’s too much sodium in our blood then more water is needed to dilute it, and this causes our blood pressure to rise.
Having high blood pressure increases our risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases as it puts more pressure on our blood vessels and organs pumping the blood around our bodies. Although having too much salt is just one of many things that contribute to this, it is important that we are aware how much we eat and try to reduce it!
Most of the salt in our diets comes from pre-prepared and processed foods, rather than from salt we add ourselves. Salt isn’t generally a mineral that we need to find, it finds us! It’s in bread, sauces, soups, tinned foods, stock, cheese, sandwiches, savoury snacks, cured meats and much more.
Food labels can be confusing as they can state the grams of salt OR sodium. To calculate how much salt is in a food if the description states sodium, multiply the amount by 2.5. For example, if a food product contains 0.6g sodium, it has 1.5g salt. The current dietary guideline for salt is no more than 6g (2.4g sodium) a day for adults, which is around 1 tsp. However, this is a maximum and not a target, ideally, we should have less than this.
There are several different salts available to buy which claim to have higher mineral contents such as Himalayan pink salt, rock salt and sea salt. Research suggests that the mineral content of these varies minimally, with some containing only slightly higher levels of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. We don’t consume salt in high enough amounts to make this difference in mineral content significant to our overall health.
If you eat a balanced diet which is made from fresh whole foods and only have processed foods occasionally (because let’s face it, eating healthy ALL the time is unrealistic for most of us!), and try not to add too much salt to the food you cook then you should be having about the right amount. It’s not something to be feared but LESS is MORE when it comes to salt!
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