Salt: How much is too much? - Funmbi Oo - Nutrition, Diet, Health Care, Weight Loss and more

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“Can you pass me the salt, please?” How often do you hear yourself or others around you say this phrase? No matter if it is a business lunch with your colleagues or a family occasion (especially the ones featuring the delicious jollof rice!) or a dinner date, we feel the urge to spice up our meals with salt. Some cannot have their food without it. It just seems tasteless without some salt, don’t you agree? Let us go a few steps down the history lane about salt.
Salt has been an essential element of human and animal diets for centuries. It even served as a currency in many countries. In the middle ages, it was sometimes called “white gold” because it was incredibly expensive. It has been an important part of life as it is present in literature and culture of many nations as it is still a tradition to greet guests with bread and salt in many countries.
Today, there are about 14,000 uses of it and food, industry and medicine are the best known ones. At this junction, you may ask yourself that if salt is so important and has been around for centuries, how could it do you any bad. Well, there is one thing you can be sure of. Salt can be very dangerous for your health when you have too much of it. How would you know this? How much is too much? We would answer this question later on this page but here is a list of some signs clearly showing that you could be eating too much of salt.
1.      You are always thirsty. Humans cannot survive without water. We all know it. However, if your mouth feels as dry as a Sahara desert and you crave water all the time, chances are you are consuming too much salt. Salt consist of about 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Sodium, when in large amounts, takes water from your cells. Your brain thirst center gets this signal and will do everything possible to help your body restore the balance of fluids. You can also help it especially on those days you eat foods super rich in sodium such as chips, pepperoni pizza and other junk foods by making sure you drink a lot of water. It is best to do this before your meal and even better to start your day with it instead of coffee or juice. One more important thing to note is that constant thirst may also be a sign of diabetes, so consult your doctor just to be sure.
2.      Frequent visits to the bathroom. You would find this connected to our previous point. The more water you drink, the more often you need to go to the bathroom. You might find it very inconvenient to rush or look for a toilet when you are out of your usual environment all the time. It is equally frustrating when it interrupts your sleep and also, bad for your health because excess urinating can lead to loss of vital nutrients such as calcium. When calcium levels reduce, the body takes it from somewhere else, preferably the bones, making you run at a high risk of developing osteoporosis. Frequent urination is also a symptom of Type 2 diabetes, so if you experience such, it is best to consult your doctor.
3.      You crave unhealthy food. Have you ever noticed how much salt you add to your meals a lot? It is just because the food tastes plain or has no taste at all to you. When you do not have the time to cook properly, you tend to go for easy-to-prepare meals like pizza, sandwiches, bacon, sausages, ham and canned soups. What about broccoli, lettuce, and carrots? No, thanks. Hmm. If you find yourself losing interest in healthy foods or would only agree to eat them spiced up by a good amount of salt, then you might be on your way to becoming a salt addict. Next stage, you will not be able to eat unsalted food at all because why eat something that gives you no joy? You are not alone. People who eat too much salt basically have their taste buds turned off. You can try to spice up your meals with strong tasting spices and herbs such as black pepper, ginger, rosemary, etc. It is better to use the organic ones but if you cannot easily access this, you can shop for the pre-packaged ones and check the product labels for their nutritional information to avoid those containing over 0.03oz (0.85g) of salt per 3.5oz (99g) of food. Also, cook from scratch whenever you can and add vegetables to your meals. That is how you control the amount of salt in your meals.
4.      Muscle cramps. How often do you have muscle cramps? If your answer is ‘too often’ or ‘everyday’ and you are not an elderly person or an athlete, then salt might be to blame. Salt consist of sodium and chloride, as stated above. Sodium and calcium helps with muscle contraction. Potassium, as essential mineral salt, helps your muscles to relax. When the sodium/potassium balance is altered with excessive sodium intake, your muscle respond with cramps as they become sore.
5.      Frequent fatigue and headaches. You probably would not have guessed this but too much salt can bring you headaches and fatigue. This does not mean you would immediately fall asleep after a bag of salty chips but overeating salt leads to dehydration which could be the reason for those headaches and fatigue. So, put your salt shaker down and have some natural healthy foods rich in potassium such as avocados, tomatoes, bananas, asparagus, etc. that can help you restore the balance.
6.      Painful kidneys. Kidneys are our body’s powerful chemical factories. They remove waste products, balance fluid levels, and control the red blood cells. When they are overworked, their productivity can fail. A diet too rich in sodium can lead to kidney dysfunction. According the World Action on Salt and Health, eating too much salt can lead to an increase in the amount of protein in your urine, making it a big risk factor for kidney diseases. There is also an increased risk of developing kidney stones. If your kidney feel painful, please consult your doctor or a dietitian who would most likely place you on a low sodium diet.
7.      High blood pressure. It has been said to check your blood pressure regularly to keep your health under control but why should you find this important? It is a good idea if you are eating a lot of salt. American Heart Association has shown that a normal blood pressure is considered to be 130-110mmHg over 90-70mmHg with an average of 120mmHg over 80mmHg. If the pressure exceeds these values, it can lead to serious consequences such as cardiovascular diseases or a worsening of cognitive functions. The excess sodium holds more fluid in the body making the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body. You can help your heart by following a low sodium diet inclusive of heart friendly foods such as nuts, oatmeal, beans, etc.
8.      Body swellings. Puffiness under the eyes can be a sign of excess salt intake as your body is trying to balance it and has to hold the resulting excess water somewhere. Other ‘storage’ places include your ankles and legs if you have not been on your feet all day. The fingers and the whole hand could also be affected. This condition is known as edema. Edema could be a symptom of a more serious disease or a sign you have to cut back on your salt intake.
9.      Inability to think straight. The final and probably the least expected point on our list. Who could imagine salt can somehow affect your brain functions? A 2011 Canadian study on 1,200 adults has found a connection between salt overdose and brain productivity. Those who had more sodium in their diet expressed a higher chance of cognitive decline than those who ate just the right amount of sodium. It is especially important to track the amount of salt you consume as you grow older. Dehydration and extra sodium in your body can make you foggy and get you confused, hence the importance to control your diet.
To answer the question ‘How much is too much?” stated previously on this page. 1500mg of sodium is your healthy limit. That is ¾ teaspoon of salt. You can endeavor to limit your salt consumption to this number.

We hope you found this information useful and will change your diet if you see any of the signs mentioned above. You can share some of your experiences in the comments section below and watch out for more tips on living a healthy lifestyle. 

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