The average person in the U.S. consumes 3,500 milligrams of sodium a day. That’s equivalent to almost 9 grams of salt, or nearly 2 teaspoonfuls—way more than the 2.3 grams per day suggested by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
We all understand that salt isn’t good for us, and many have taken the initiative to reduced the amount of salt we shake onto our food. However do we understand why it’s so bad and how to change our habits?
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
There is lots of different evidence supporting a link between high salt intake and high blood pressure.
It is thought that having high levels of sodium in the body causes a decrease in the synthesis of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is an arteriolar vasodilator. This means that it causes the blood vessels to widen, reducing the resistance the blood experiences as it flows.
Why is high blood pressure, or hypertension, such a bad thing?
High salt intake has also been linked to osteoporosis, a condition that causes weakening of the bones making them more susceptible to fractures.
Salt is proposed to affect bones by causing increased calcium excretion in urine. Calcium is, of course, very important in bones. In fact, 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in our bones. Thus, loss of calcium, through excessive excretion, is bad for your bones.
Although salt is necessary in the production of stomach acid; it seems too much salt can actually be bad news for the stomach.
Excessive salt consumption has been linked to stomach cancer. Although the molecular basis has not yet been confirmed and not all results of epidemiological studies were in agreement, there has been a general trend observed that high salt consumption was correlated with increased risk of stomach cancer.
How can we reduce our salt intake?
Given all the negative effects high salt intake can cause, you may wish to reduce your own salt intake. You may find this is actually harder than you initially think. The difficulty in reducing your salt intake arises due to the fact that a significant amount of the salt we consume has already been added to our food at the manufacturing stage.
Some culprets containing high salt include: boxed cereals, breads and baking, canned or bottled sauces and dips and seasoned pasta and rice.
Reading labels, avoiding processed foods whenever possible and eating clean will help your and your family avoid excessive salt intake.
If you are looking for more flavor, try experimenting with fresh herbs.
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