Salt is needed for good health, but like most things you can have too much of a good thing! Too much salt in your diet is a risk factor for high blood pressure, stroke and kidney disease. A lot of the excess salt in the Australian diet comes from processed and packaged foods, just another reason to stay away from these foods as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to minimise the amount of salt you add to cooking and to not add extra salt at the table!
We all need some salt in our diet, but most people will get enough from the food they eat without adding extra. Salt (Sodium Chloride) is about 40% sodium. Sodium is easily absorbed through the intestinal tract. Once absorbed into the blood stream sodium is filtered out by the kidneys which then precisely returns the exact amount needed to your body. The excess sodium is excreted by the kidneys. Sodium is involved in maintaining fluid balance in your body. Its main role is in maintaining extracellular fluid (the fluid outside and between cells). Sodium also maintains acid balance in your body and is essential for nerve signal transmission and muscle contraction.
Too much salt in the diet is linked to high blood pressure. Reducing salt intake has been shown to reduce blood pressure in both people with or without high blood pressure and causes no harm to either. For this reason, the Australian Dietary Guidelines advise that you should choose foods low in salt and not add salt while cooking or at the table. The Upper Level of Intake advised in the Australian Nutrient Reference Values (NRV) is 2.3 grams (approximately 1 teaspoon). We can generally get enough salt through eating unprocessed foods, without the need to add extra salt while cooking, through processed foods or by adding salt at the table.
If you follow the Australian Dietary guidelines, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about excess salt in your diet.
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