How much salt should I eat?

Why is it that things that taste soooo good are usually bad for us? Add some salt and fat to pretty much any food and it is destined to tantalize the taste buds. But, unfortunately, with all negative publicity it has received, there is no more denying that too much salt is bad for our health.

The interesting thing is that like with so many other things, you can't live with to much salt, but you can't live without it either. On the one hand, salt is actually essential to the proper functioning of our bodies. It regulates our fluid balance and controls our nerves and muscles. Without salt we would eventually cease to function! The good news is that our body has an in-built salt detector, which alerts us when there is too much salt in our system by making us feel thirsty. As a response we drink water (or something containing water) and the excess salt is flushed out through the kidneys.

On the other hand, if you eat too much salt  you will run the risk of heart disease, kidney failure, stroke, osteoporosis, cancers, high blood pressure and much more.

Ok, so how much salt should we eat then? The medical standard for healthy salt intake lies at 6 grams for the average adult. What does 6 grams look like? Not very much at all, in fact just 1 teaspoon a day!

So here is the problem – 75% of our salt intake comes from processed foods in our diet. by processed I mean: tinned, pre-packaged, junk, fast food, snack food, condiments, cereals, white bread products – pretty much anything that is not in its natural form! In our fast paced society we have become more and more prone to eating pre-packaged foods because they are quick and convenient, but unfortunately this salt loading doesn't come without some negatives! Our taste buds have acquired a taste for the super salty snacks, which in turn causes us to add more salt to our healthier foods as well.

So how do we cut down on salt in our diet? I really believe that the first step is informing yourself about how much salt the foods you eat actually contain. Nowadays there is a nutritional panel on every packaged food to make this a lot easier for you. Salt is listed as "sodium" on the label. Make sure you are looking at the quantity per serving, not per 100grams as this could be deceiving!  If the label has more than 1.5g of salt (or 0.6g of sodium) per 100g it is a high salt content food. If it has 0.3g of salt (0.1g of sodium) per 100g then it is a low salt content food. Anything in between is a medium salt content food.

Next, start choosing "low salt" or "salt reduced" options where ever they are available. Once your taste buds have acclimatized you can also start adding less salt at the table. Perhaps you could experiment with new cooking methods that include the fresh flavors of herbs and spices or low salt condiments. Lastly, try to limit your consumption of fast foods as some of these can be the worst culprits. Hopefully your taste buds will soon get used to eating less salt and you won't even miss it any more!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gregg Crise November 3, 2011 at 11:37 am

Keep working ,impressive job!


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