Times of oman

Salt, a vital component of hydration for the human body, is critical for replacing both water and salt lost through perspiration. But, too much salt can pose health risks as well, so it is important to maintain balance when it comes to sodium consumption.

If you love salty foods and snacks, from chips and burgers to stir-fried vegetables and spicy meats, you might be unknowingly walking the path to hypertension or heart

disease. So, it could be time to keep a watch on your salt intake, and the best way forward is in cutting down on prepared and processed foods which have a high content of sodium.

Salt, or sodium chloride, is essential for life. In fact, no mineral is more essential to human survival than sodium because it allows nerves to send and receive electrical impulses, helps your muscles stay strong, and keeps your cells and brain functioning. However, sodium chloride (salt) is a nutrient that the body cannot produce, and therefore it must be eaten.

A recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tested sodium consumption in more than 100,000 people in 17 countries. The study found that the healthy range for sodium consumption was between 3,000 and 6,000mg per day.

Eating more than 7,000mg per day of sodium increases your risk of death or cardiovascular incidents, but not as much as eating less than 3,000mg per day. A low salt diet, hence, can be significantly more harmful than a high salt diet.

According to Dr Mohammad Tarek Al Dairi, Cardiologist, Al Hayat International Hospital, however, lack of salt in diet will do no harm to an individual.

“You don’t have to consciously consume salted food to get the salt requirement of the body, salt is already present in a range of everyday foods. However, if you are suffering from heart disease or high blood pressure then you need to watch your salt intake everyday.”

Cautioning against eating processed foods which are high in salt content, Dr Dairi suggests that every individual needs to consume about 2000mg of salt everyday, which is equivalent to one and half small teaspoons.

This can come from food prepared at home as well as a range of foods, like vegetables, meat, fish. But, those with heart disease or high BP must cut it down to about 1000mg a day.

He, however, added that consuming less than these minimum requirements is not something to be worried about as low salt diets are always good for health.

Salt Has Many Health Benefits

The other component of salt, chloride, is also essential to survival and good health. It preserves acid-base balance in the body, aids potassium absorption, improves the ability of the blood to move harmful carbon dioxide from tissues out to the lungs and, most importantly, it supplies the crucial stomach acids required to break down and digest all the foods we eat.

Salt is also a vital component of hydration. After exercise, it is critical to replace both water and salt lost through perspiration during exercise. That is why all athletes make sure they are consuming sufficient salt during and after a workout.

Expectant mothers and seniors, in particular, need to guard against under-consumption of salt. Higher-salt diets have also been used successfully to combat chronic fatigue syndrome.

Asthma sufferers, particularly in Eastern Europe, are often treated by having the person spend time in salt mines or salt caves. This is because the unique microclimate, containing ultrafine salt particles helps clear the lungs.

Low Salt Diet Myths

Low salt diets can be especially harmful for the elderly. In older people, mild hyponatremia (low sodium concentration) is the most common form of electrolyte imbalance in the blood. Indeed, several recent medical papers found a direct relationship between hyponatremia and unsteadiness, falls, bone fractures and attention deficits.

Elderly people on low salt diets often experience lack of thirst which leads to dehydration and other health problems. Falls are one of the most serious problems for the elderly and about a third of people older than 65 fall at least once every year.

And research shows that in assisted living facilities where almost all residents were given low-salt diets, the rate of falls and fractures were three times higher than in a normal home environment. – brandpointcontent. com

Sources of salt in food

• Processed Foods: Most processed and prepared are high in salt and additives that contain sodium. These include bread, pizzas, ready-to-eat pastas, meat and egg dishes, cold cuts, cheese, and other fast foods.

• Natural Sources: Natural sources of salt include all vegetables and dairy products, meat, and shellfish. Though these foods are not high in sodium content, eating these foods does add to your overall sodium intake. (Around 200ml of low-fat milk contains 80-90mg of sodium).

• At The Table: Many foods require addition of salt at the table while condiments used in cooking also contain sodium. (One tablespoon of soy sauce, contains 1,000mg of sodium)