Salt: A Matter of Taste & a Matter of Health
During the last 5,000 years salt (sodium chloride) has become a prized item of diet in most communities. The Phoenicians and Egyptians preserved their fish by salting it; the Japanese and many other people still do.
Salt was so important that battles were fought over valuable deposits. The old Roman soldiers were paid in salt tablets and the word “soldier” originated from an old Latin word “saldare” which means “to give salt”.
A mythology has grown up around this simple compound and today many people believe that they need plenty of it. They feel deprived when it is withdrawn from their diet. It is true that the body needs some sodium chloride, but an abundance of salt occurs as a natural ingredient of our food, and there is no need to add more from artificial sources.
Many people consume 10-30 times their daily need. Salt is so widely used in the food industry that excessive consumption is easy. Salt is so easily and cheaply available and is so widely used in foods that it is difficult to avoid. For example, one cheeseburger will provide us with four times our daily quota.
1. Why Should We Reduce the Amount of Salt We Eat?
Salt is sodium chloride. It is the sodium component of salt that is of greatest concern. It is wise to reduce the intake of sodium because excessive consumption is linked to hypertension (high blood pressure), and kidney disease.
When there is high blood pressure the heart has to pump at high pressure; this causes the artery walls to become thicker, harder and less elastic (sometimes called hardening of the arteries). Eventually heart ailments or stroke may occur. 3 day cardiac diet may help prevent heart disease, and other diet-related diseases.
Several factors may be involved but much of the blame is now being leveled at the amount of sodium (from salt) in the diet. In communities where no salt is used, there is no high blood pressure. In Japan, where in some regions the salt intake is up to twice as high as in Australia, up to 40 percent of middle aged adults suffer from high blood pressure. In Australia, and in societies consuming a similar amount of salt, 20 percent of the adult population has high blood pressure.
There are other problems associated with a high salt diet, including edema (swelling of body tissues), and extreme symptoms of premenstrual tension. The kidneys constantly assess how much sodium the blood contains and send the excess on its way out in the urine. If they are continually made to work overtime the body may retain too much sodium. This causes water to be retained as well. Such a situation occurs in many women just before a menstrual period and results in a bloated feeling, irritability and headaches. These symptoms can be treated by following a low salt diet for 10 days before menstruation is expected, but it would be even better to adopt a healthy (unsalted) diet permanently.
2. Some of the Simpler Ways of Cutting Down or Eliminating Salt From the Diet:
Salt is the major additive in most processed foods, and is the main condiment used in cooking and at the table. It is added to bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits, butter, margarine, cakes, canned fish and meats, canned vegetables, frozen products, sausages, frankfurters and salami, mayonnaise, pickles, instant noodles, cheeses, chips and canned and packet soups.
The taste for salt is a habit usually acquired early in life. Very often a baby’s food is salted to suit an adult’s taste. A child gets used to added salt in much the same way as he or she gets used to added sugar. The habit is passed on from one generation to the next.
3. How Can This Cycle be Broken? Consider Some of the Following Ways to Cut Down on Salt:
Leave the salt shaker off the table. If you want a salt substitute, potassium salt is suitable. Beware of sea salt. It is sometimes said to be better than regular salt, but in fact it contains just as much sodium, and proved to be more harmful than ordinary salt in rat feeding experiments.
Gradually reduce the amount of salt you use in cooking. Try cooking vegetables for a shorter time so that they keep their taste. Enhance the natural flavors of foods with such herbs and spices as rosemary, tarragon, oregano, dill, marjoram, basil, parsley, turmeric, mint, dry curry, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, thyme, sage and bay leaf.
Traditionally, certain herbs and spices are used for particular dishes; oregano and basil for spaghetti dishes; marjoram, dill and tarragon for fish; rosemary and mint for lamb and pork; paprika for goulash; thyme and sage enrich the flavor of chicken; ginger goes with beef; mint or nutmeg can be used with potato; noodles can be tossed in fresh basil and rice in turmeric and parsley.
Read food labels to identify sources of sodium. Eat very salty foods only occasionally. Items such as bacon, corned meat, ham, soya sauce, sausages, yeast extracts, stock cubes and canned fish are high in salt.
Cook your own soups, using vegetables, dried beans, lentils and fresh or dried herbs. Canned and packet soups are very high in salt.
Cecilia is an editor from Life Tips and Tricks, and she enjoys writing health articles to help people manage every aspect of their health and lead a more balanced life. She also loves sharing tips on eating 500 calories a day for busy women.