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Sodium is an essential mineral and like most of the other minerals should be consumed in right quantity every day. Sodium is normally excreted by the kidneys. In fact, too much sodium can cause the body to retain water and also put you at the risk of a plethora of health problems.
But how much salt is ideal? Well, adults should not eat more than 6 grams of salt per day (i.e. 2.4 grams of sodium) which roughly translates to around 1 teaspoon.
Here’s what too much sodium can do the body:
• High blood pressure: Eating too much salt is linked to hypertension or high blood pressure. Reducing your salt intake to less than six milligrams per day has been shown to lower blood pressure.
• Poor heart health: If you have heart disease or congestive heart failure, extra salt can cause fluid retention around the heart and lungs, which can lead to shortness of breath and hospitalization.
• Impaired kidney function: Too much salt in your diet can cause you to retain fluid, leading to weight gain and bloating.
• Worsening of diabetes-related problems: While not directly connected to blood sugar, eating too much salt increases the risk of complications from diabetes. Diabetics are more prone to kidney-related complications and excess sodium can worsen the management of diabetic nephropathy.
• Weight gain and bloating: Eating too much salt leads to water retention, which in turn makes you puff up and also leads to weight gain.
• Other health conditions: Enlarged heart muscle, frequent headaches, kidney disease, osteoporosis, and kidney stones are some of the other problems associated with high sodium consumption.
How can you reduce your salt intake?
1. Cook without added salt: You can use the prescribed amount of salt separately. You can add little or no salt at the table. Use spices and herbs to enhance the taste of your food. Lemon, tamarind, tomato, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and mint can add a unique flavour to your food.
2. Choose fresh foods: Frozen food items are often laden with added salts. Which is why you must choose fresh foods which not only have a better nutritional quotient but are also salt-free.
3. Avoid salty snacks: Forgo chips and namkeen and choose unsalted nuts to snack on. While you’re at it, make fresh soups at home instead of using instant mixes. Also avoid junk foods, bakery products, and processed foods.
4. Learn to read labels: Ingredient labels on packaged foods usually spell out how much sodium content a product has. Avoid any packed product that provides more than 30% of the daily allowance of sodium in one serving.
5. Other measures: You can select fat-free or low-fat milk, low-sodium, low-fat cheeses, as well as low-fat curds. When dining out, ask for your dish to be prepared without salt and/or Ajinomoto.
Eating potassium-rich foods can also help
Another important aspect is to balance your diet with potassium-rich fruits and vegetables. Do not switch to low sodium versions of salt available on the shelf as they can disrupt entire electrolyte balance of the body. Talk to a nutritionist to understand whether you need to switch to low-sodium salt.