Salt is another wonderful, tasty addition to our foods which increases their flavor and helps them go longer without spoiling. Your body requires a certain amount, without which you’d die. Downside, in excess salt can cause bloating and high blood pressure. While the bloating may cause you to put on weight and feel bad, the high blood pressure is what you need to watch out for. The increased pressure in your blood vessels can damage the vessels – which may cause aneurysm and death, or wear out your heart – leading to heart failure.
So what’s the right amount? The most recent US government recommendation is about half a teaspoon. This is important for all people, as the majority of the US population will develop high blood pressure over the course of their lifetime (most likely due to diet.) However, at risk populations should be even more careful. These include:
- People over age 50
- People who have high or slightly elevated blood pressure
- African Americans (genetic predisposition)
Although these recommendations are for your benefit, they are also very hard to practice, especially if you eat out a lot for work. This is because most restaurants put extra salt in their food as a flavor enhancer. Prepackaged foods are loaded with it as well, since it helps to prolong shelf life.
The best option is to cut down on prepackaged foods and eat out less.
Cutting back is also difficult since our taste buds are adjusted to the excessive amounts of salt we eat. A while back I talked with a friend of mine from Mexico. He said he couldn’t even taste most food unless it was really, really spicy. It wasn’t that he always was like that, instead he’d grown up in a home where everything was spicy so he either got used to it or didn’t eat. That’s what it’s like with us and salt. We’ve adjusted to the high levels so that we have trouble tasting anything less. I recommend cutting back slowly instead of all at once. Too much too soon and you’ll literally be left with a bad taste in your mouth, let your body adjust gradually.
A little more about salt:
Salt amounts can be found on food packaging labeled as sodium. Sodium is necessary in quite a few functions in your body including:
- Nerve impulses (it keeps your brain working and sending signals to the body)
- Balancing fluids (the fluids in your body flow in and out of your blood vessels and salt helps with that process)
- Keeps your blood pressure from dropping too low. (yes low blood pressure can be a problem as well as high blood pressure)
On a historical note, salt was used to keep meat from spoiling before refrigerators were around and the name salary comes from a time when the Roman army paid their soldiers in salt or “salarium,” though it later was used in its current form.
Over all salt has had a tremendous impact on societies around the world, but for now just remember that a little goes a long way.