Are you like me confused by the amount of information we’ve received lately about the amount of salt in our food and how it can affect our health? We are told that too much salt causes health problems, but on the other hand too little can also be harmful to our health
About 40 percent sodium, salt is a mineral found in small amounts in virtually every staple food—from fruits and vegetables to plain tap water.
We all need some sodium in our diet to maintain our health, but too much, and especially persistently high amounts, causes high blood pressure, which greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
I think more of us are aware of these health risks due to recent media coverage, but what is less well known is that they are also linked to stomach cancer and brittle bones. Water retention is also a side effect.
The latest information we have received is that consuming too much salt in our diet can lead to ulcers, according to new research conducted. Ulcers affect the health of one in eight people in the UK, and salt has been found to help feed the bacteria behind most stomach ulcers, leading to symptoms ranging from a mild burning sensation to actually vomiting blood.
Many of these cases are caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which tricks the stomach into producing too much acid, leading to ulcers and disease. Researchers from the American Health Sciences University found that high salt levels cause genetic changes in this beetle that make it all the more powerful, and warned that we should all educate ourselves about the health risks associated with too much salt.
The Food Standards Agency recommends that adults should eat no more than 6g of salt, which is about 2.5g of sodium. In children, it obviously varies with age as shown in the table below
up to 6 months old – less than — 1 g — 0.4 mg
6-12 months – 1g – 0.4mg
1-3 years old – 2g – 800mg
4-6 years – 3g – 1.2g
7-10 years — 5g — 2g
Children over 11 years – 6 g – 2.4 g
A simple way to calculate salt from sodium is to multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5. This can be very helpful when calculating the amount of salt on some foods where labeling is confusing.
Of course, parents shouldn’t put salt in the diet of children, let alone babies, as their kidneys can’t process large amounts of it, and in fact, too much salt has been known to be fatal in children under the age of one.
We are becoming aware that for good health we should know exactly what salt we are consuming in our diet, but knowing how much is difficult today as more and more people eat convenience foods and processed foods, and these products do not always have clear and accurate quantities.
Food manufacturers add sodium to many types of food that we never thought contained, or the amount because apparently our “taste buds” have changed over the years and say consumers like that “taste” expect now. Our taste buds are generally a good guide to how salty our food is, but manufacturers also often use sugar in these foods, which masks the saltiness and fools our taste buds!
Experts now say that, in general, only 6 percent of salt is actually added to food at the table, 9 percent is added during cooking, and a whopping 75 percent of everything we consume comes from processed foods, including bread, puddings and breakfast cereals.
Health professionals have advocated for clear labeling of the amount used in the manufacture of food and for greater awareness of the health concerns associated with consuming too much salt, and I hope that after reading this article you will feel comfortable with the Health concerns that are attributed to high salt consumption will be familiar.
So now we all need to get used to checking product labels closely and remember not to confuse salt with sodium when we do. A high salt product is one with a level of 1.5g (0.6g sodium) or more per 100g of product, so anything with a lower level is a much healthier choice and of course the better for your health , the lower the salary.
If you’re a salt cell fan and regularly add it to your food, the best way to reduce this is to give your taste buds an alternative, healthier flavor enhancer. There are many to try, garlic is one, freshly ground black pepper is excellent, try lemon juice or fresh herbs and spices to add great flavor. Chili is also a good taste, but an acquired taste.
Another way to wean yourself off from too much is to gradually reduce the amount you add to your food to allow your taste buds to adjust.
Hyponatremia is a condition in which someone is deficient in sodium, and if left untreated, can cause dizziness, confusion, and unexplained tiredness.
Hyponatremia is more likely to affect older people, especially if they use diuretics. Diuretics are used to treat problems like high blood pressure and heart disease by reducing the levels of fluid in the body, which can affect the body’s essential salt (or electrolyte) levels needed to maintain good health and vital functions.
Just this year, a marathon runner died shortly after completing his race, and the diagnosis was because he had drunk so much water that he had lost too much body salt through urination and profuse sweating.
So obviously there’s a concern that some overzealous and health-conscious people might be under-limiting their salt intake and causing problems for themselves. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is always best for good health.
So, like me now, don’t forget to make it a habit to read your food labels including bread, whether you buy it from a bakery or the supermarket, as it’s always in the ingredients to ensure you’re only getting the Eat a healthy amount required. I know this can be confusing and tedious, but it’s to our advantage.
Sandra and Ted Wosko
Thanks to Sandra Wosko