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Hi AllYou may be aware that over the weekend I have been looking at the salt/potassium ratio our bodies need.In one article I read about a test that you can do to convince yourself of the difference between 'sea salt' against ordinary every day 'table salt'. So I thought I would try it.I got two empty herb jars and filled them up to the neck with ordinary water (Oh, I forgot. We only have rainwater I don't suppose it should make a lot of difference. Might even be a better quality for the test). I then added a measured teaspoonful of table salt (Saxa) to one jar and the same measure of sea salt (we use the cheapest we can find) to the other. I then gave each bottle a shake and then left them sitting on the window sill for twenty-four hours.This is the result:
As you can see the sea salt, in the jar on the left, has completely dissolved in the water while the table salt just lies in the bottom of the jar.This is what has been happening within our bodies since the introduction of processed salt. Table salt does not dissolve in the body and, over time, begins to block arteries etc, causing serious harm to our bodies. The sea salt will flow through your body and do more good than harm. We all need salt!Table salt, obviously, has had all the goodness extracted during refining so you get a nice shiny white substance that looks and tastes salty but is of no use to your body.This following article gives more information on the subject of salt and if you Google for the salt/potassium/chloride relationship you will find that modern people have a high salt/low potassium ratio.Hoo RooNormPS the Saxa will be going into the garbage bin!
Salt is a chemical compound that combines sodium and chloride. Normal sodium content is needed to maintain the correct volume of circulating blood and tissue fluids of the body. Sodium also helps with the absorption of glucose in the small intestine and in conducting nerve impulses.
Sodium levels are mainly regulated by the kidneys. If sodium levels are too low, the hormone aldosterone is released and this increases the amount of sodium held by the kidneys. On the other hand, if your body's salt levels become too high, you begin to feel thirsty and this is how your body maintains the right balance between the amount of water and sodium in the body.
The recommended dietary intake (RDI) for sodium is 920-2300 mg per day. Australians consume, on average, about two times the RDI: 75 per cent from processed foods, 15 per cent from use at the table and in cooking and less than 10 per cent from fruit, vegetables and meat.
Salt loss is rare but can be dangerous
The body loses salt through urine, perspiration, vomiting and diarrhoea. If too much salt is lost, the level of fluid in the blood will drop. In severe cases, low sodium levels in the body can lead to muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Eventually lack of salt can lead to shock, coma and death.
With the exception of acute gastroenteritis, severe sweating or water intoxication from drinking too much water , sodium depletion is very unlikely because our diets contain more than enough salt. Many foods, like wholegrains, meat and dairy products, naturally contain traces of sodium, while processed foods tend to be loaded with salt.
The link with high blood pressure
The scientific literature linking sodium intake to blood pressure is extensive and dates back more than 100 years. Populations with a high average salt intake have a higher mean blood pressure as well as a higher prevalence of hypertension. High blood pressure, or hypertension, means that your blood is pumping harder than normal through your arteries. This condition is a risk factor in illnesses such as heart attack and stroke. It has been estimated that by reducing mean daily salt intake by 80-100 mmol, the incidence of stroke would be reduced by 26 per cent and coronary heart disease by 15 per cent.
Restricting the amount of salt you have will lower high blood pressure - the extent depends on your age and blood pressure and the effects may not be seen for at least five weeks. However, sodium restriction may not lower blood pressure if it is within the normal range. Nevertheless, we should not ignore the recommended intake for sodium as high sodium intakes have been linked with other health conditions, apart from hypertension. Most doctors recommend a low salt diet if you have high blood pressure; however, the most effective dietary treatment is weight loss. More research on salt intake is required, particularly in non-Caucasian populations.
Sodium intake and other health conditions
Excessive sodium intake has also been linked to other conditions that are exacerbated by water retention, such as:
Salt and calcium loss
- Heart failure
- Liver cirrhosis
- Kidney problems and kidney stones
- Gastric cancer
- Left ventricular hypertrophy
Excessive salt intake increases the amount of calcium excreted in the urine. This may contribute to osteoporosis and increased risk of fracture.
Sweating and salt replacement
It was once commonly believed that salt had to be replaced during hot weather or strenuous exercise, or else muscle cramps would result. The human body can happily survive on just one gram of sodium per day and hormones keep a check on sodium levels and make adjustments for hot weather. Considering the typical Western diet, a genuine sodium shortage brought on through hot weather or exercise would be extremely rare, even among hard working athletes. The muscle cramps that sometimes follow a bout of profuse sweating are due to dehydration, not insufficient sodium. To prevent cramps, drink plenty of water on hot days and before, during and after exercise. This will also help to even out the water-sodium ratio in the body.
The sodium-potassium interaction
Our bodies are designed for a high potassium diet, not a high salt diet. Today's Western diet is low in potassium and high in salt. Potassium is very protective and lowers blood pressure. Food processing tends to lower the potassium levels in many foods while increasing the sodium content. Therefore, it is better to eat unprocessed foods, such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals.
Foods containing high amounts of salt
Some foods contain higher amounts of salt than you may expect, for example:
Reducing salt in our diet
- A jam sandwich has only 30 per cent less salt that a vegemite sandwich because most of the salt comes from the bread.
- Onion/celery/garlic salts are not low sodium substitutes.
- A bowl of cornflakes has about the same salt as a small packet of plain chips.
- Some sweet biscuits contain as much or more salt than savoury biscuits.
- Of the fatty spreads, mayonnaise has the most salt (240 mg/100 g), followed by margarine (140 mg), butter (130 mg), dairy blends (110 mg) and cream cheese (85 mg).
- Ricotta, cottage, mozzarella and Swiss cheeses are lower in salt than most other cheeses; processed cheeses contain much more salt than regular cheeses.
Experts recommend that we reduce the amount of salt in our diet. Some suggestions include:
Some people believe that sea salt is a healthier alternative to normal table salt, but both are made from sodium and chloride.
- Prefer reduced salt bread and breakfast cereals - bread is a major source of sodium in the diet so switching to a low salt bread will have a significant effect on reducing sodium intake. Other cereal foods can mask the flavour of high concentrations of salt, for example, Weetbix has 280mg/100g of sodium, Lite-Bix 20mg/100g and Just Right 49mg/100g.
- Avoid high salt foods or eat them only occasionally.
- Cut back on processed foods.
- Cut back on takeaway and fast foods.
- Buy fresh vegetables rather than canned.
- Buy 'low salt' or 'salt free' versions of commercial sauces.
- Since less than 20 per cent of our salt intake comes from the salt we add directly to our food, it is OK to sprinkle a little iodised salt on nutritious foods to help us eat them.
- Instead of cooking with salt, just put a little on your food afterwards.
- Prefer iodised salt, especially if you don't eat seafood or are vegetarian.
- Use herbs and spices such as garlic, oregano and lemon juice to add flavour to meals.
The current Food Standards Code states that a low salt food has a level of less than 120 mg/100 g (£ 52 mmol/kg).
Avoid processed foods
High salt foods that should be eaten sparingly include:
- Most fast foods, such as pizza.
- Most snack foods, such as potato chips.
- Processed meats, such as sausages, hot dogs and luncheon meats.
- Canned vegetables.
- Dehydrated or packet foods, such as instant pasta or soups.
- Pre-packaged sauces and condiments, such as tomato sauce and soy sauce, and processed tomato products in general.
- White bread and bread rolls.
Our bodies need iodine for normal functioning of the thyroid gland and hormones that regulate metabolic rate and promote growth and development throughout the body, including the brain.
People on a low salt diet may benefit from eating seafood each week to ensure adequate iodine levels. This is especially relevant for pregnant women, due to the risk of intellectual disability for the child. Vegetarians or people who do not eat seafood can get iodine from seaweed or iodised salt.
Where to get help
Things to remember
- Your doctor
- Salt is needed by the body to help regulate fluid levels.
- The average Australian eats more than double the amount of salt than their body needs.
- A diet high in salt has been linked to high blood pressure.