Its effect on heart health is commonly known. Now, find out how excess salt can increase risks of obesity and diabetes.
Salt/sodium is crucial for your health. We need salt to transport nutrients, transmit nerve impulses and contract muscles, including our heart. Sodium also maintains the fluid, electrolyte and pH balance in the body. But excess salt consumption increases the risk of insulin resistance, high BP, stroke and water retention that translates into extra kilos on the scale.
Excess Salt and Lifestyle Conditions
While high salt intake has been clearly implicated for high BP and stomach cancer, its role in the development of insulin resistance and obesity is relatively new. According to some studies, excessive salt can worsen insulin resistance and the evidence suggests that there is an interdependent relationship between insulin sensitivity and sodium. So, as you watch your calories, fat and sugar intake, don't forget to count salt. An animal study done in Japan, published in the Journal of Hypertension, explored the link between insulin resistance and high salt intake in rats. It indicated that there was a significant increase in blood glucose and insulin levels in rats, fed on a high sodium-diet.
Your Daily Allowance
On an average, most people consume more salt than they need. While the recommendations are 2400 mg sodium a day, most of us tend to have around 3500-4300 mg. According to WHO, those with high blood pressure should limit their intake to 1600 mg salt per day. However, those with low blood pressure or sportspeople (they sweat too much) may have a slightly higher requirement than the recommended dosage.
Begin with reading nutrition labels to compare and pick foods low on salt. You'll be surprised to find that even foods in the same category have different amounts of sodium. Look out for foods with monosodium glutamate (better known as MSG and found in many Chinese foods), baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium nitrate, or any other compound that has sodium or "Na" (it's chemical name) as that is likely to add excess sodium.
Reduce the salt content in your daily diet. Substitute with pure herbs and spices. For example, buy garlic powder instead of garlic salt. At the table, use a salt-shaker with small holes, or cover all but one hole. Better still, ditch the salt shaker. Also, both common salt and rock salt contain similar amounts of sodium chloride (NaCl). Create your own herb and spice blend, and put it in your salt-shaker. To make the dishes flavourful, add fresh lemon juice instead of salt in pulses, fish and veggies. Choose fresh or frozen unprocessed food preparations over those that are canned, cured, smoked or processed. A few commercial sauces like hot pepper sauce, angostura and Tabasco are fine to use.
Minimise use of commercial pickles, papads, salty chutneys, processed namkeen and churans. Ditto for cold cuts like sausages, ham and bacon, because these are particularly high in salt. Canned or bottled sauces such as barbecue, soy, steak, chilli, tomato, salad dressings and teriyaki, too, should be used sparingly. A single tablespoon of soya sauce can give you over 900 mg of sodium (about 40% of your daily sodium intake). Bakery products prepared with baking soda also contain extra salt. Limit your intake of fast foods, most of them are too salty. When eating out request the eatery to prepare your order with mininum salt.