Last Updated on April 11, 2016 by Michael Brockbank
For several years now, many organizations have essentially launched a war on salt. This wondrous component is in plentiful supply on the planet and is used in everything from preserving foods to making various things taste better. Unfortunately, it can also lead to complications if taken in excessive quantities.
The Effects of Sodium on the Human Body
Salt is actually sodium chloride. This is how a product can say “low salt” but still contain degrees of sodium. Technically, the manufacturer could be right. There could be low levels of sodium chloride in food but still contain high levels of other forms of this element.
Salt is Good
Various parts of the human body relies on salt to function properly. It’s a common component that keeps everything together. It contributes to regulating blood sugar levels, hydration and may have some properties as a sleep aid – although I am unable to find a sleep study regarding this information. If you know of one, feel free to drop me a message on Twitter.
Salt is Bad
Getting too little salt in your diet can have adverse effects. That’s not in dispute even though many salt-enthusiasts center arguments around such information. The focus of many scientific studies is that of high levels of intake and how it effects the body. Like most things we eat every day, excessive amounts can lead to severe health problems. Every human needs to consume some form of sodium, just not dowse their burgers with several tablespoons of the white goodness.
Increasing Risks of Storke
Salt intake has also been found to contribute to a higher risk of suffering from strokes. Given the nature of cardiovascular diseases, it’s no wonder why severe blood clots can cause so much damage in the human body. I bet you never thought that every bite of that delicious burrito from Taco Bell was compounding your risk for stroking out in the middle of the restaurant.
Increasing Blood Pressure
A slew of studies provides strong support that the intake of sodium can lead to an increase in blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, consuming too much salt increases the blood pressure to dangerous levels. This could lead to various problems such as cardiovascular disease. By reducing the amount of salt you eat now, you could experience a decrease in your BP in the span of a couple of weeks.
Reduce, Not Eliminate
Studies that have been conducted for reducing sodium intake have also shown great potential for promoting several health benefits. In fact, many of these studies showed a decrease in blood pressure as participants increased their potassium intake while lowering their salt consumption. I’ll cover more on potassium at a later date.
How to Ease the Effects of Sodium in the Body
It can be difficult to reduce your sodium intake, especially if you use a great deal of processed foods in the home. For example, cans of soup can have excessive levels of salt as well as several nutritional benefits. However, it’s not impossible to enjoy salted foods as long as you take steps to offset the intake.
Monitor Your Food
If you’ve read previous articles by me, you’ll know that I am a strong supporter of MyFitnessPal. It’s a great system to use if you want to keep a closer eye on the foods you’re consuming for free. Monitoring your sodium intake can be helpful if you want to decrease your risks for cardiovascular disease or strokes.
Increase Potassium Intake
Did you know that approximately 2% of people in the United States actually consumes enough potassium in their diets? This mineral is capable of offsetting some of the damage that sodium causes in the body. It helps you by regulating the blood pressure. Although high levels of potassium won’t completely eliminate the threat of excessive salt use, it will reduce the risk to cardiovascular complications.
Select Different Seasonings
Instead of grabbing the salt, try to season your food with alternatives. There are multitudes of herbs that can be used to bring flavor to the meal which contain no sodium at all. Personally, I tend to use a lot of Italian seasonings and love adding basil to my homemade chicken and turkey soups.
Drink More Water
Water is the one component no human can exist without. By increasing your consumption, you allow the body to perform an important task: getting rid of excess components through urination. Many of the components in the body can be eliminated through urine ranging from alcohol to toxins. This isn’t saying that drinking more water will cure what ails you, but it will play a prominent role in such.
Your Physiology Will Make the Difference
According to experts, I should be a candidate for stage two hypertension. However, I am able to maintain an average blood pressure even though I usually eat nearly twice the recommended dose of sodium. This is because of my specific physiology and daily practices of consuming foods. Everyone is different and their bodies will utilize nutrition in specific ways. What is dangerous for one person may not directly affect another. It’s best if you find your own tolerances for things like salt before committing to a strict regime of dieting.
The human body needs salt in order to survive. The problems arise when you consume too much of it. Experts believe that keeping your consumption at around 2300mg per day is key to proper health. Personally, I over-shoot that mark on a regular basis because I eat a lot of Progresso soups. Keep an eye on how much you eat per day and determine if there is anything you can do to reduce your health risks.