WHY IS SALT BAD FOR US?

By Freya Michelle


We have all probably heard from others that having a high-sodium diet is bad for our health and eating overly salty or sweet foods constantly is harmful to us. This may be an easy fact to accept, since it is widely known that a high salt diet is linked to a higher blood pressure and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

However, what we may not fully understand is what exactly salt does to our body and why we can’t enjoy the taste of our salty ramen, pretzels and pizza without the feeling we are harming our body. Moreover, why do we crave such salty and sweet flavours if it is so bad for us?


IS SALT ACTUALLY BAD FOR US?

Firstly, it is important to recognize that salt, sodium chloride, is not inherently bad for us to consume. Sodium chloride is required by our bodies for metabolic functions in the body and helps to regulate fluid volume. However, like sugar, consuming above the recommended amount becomes a problem.


According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey published by Public Health England in 2018, the estimated salt intake in England was 6.8 grams per day in women and 8.3 grams per day in men. This survey was conducted prior to the pandemic, but imagine the impact that lockdown must have had on our salt intake. Staying home all day, snacking on junk food and take-outs has become more frequent for us all even with delivery services, such as Deliveroo, JustEat and UberEats. Eating high-sodium junk food has become more frequent, more convenient and a preferred option to vegetables and fruit.


WHAT DOES SALT DO TO US WHEN INGESTED?


Excess sodium increases our blood pressure when ingested, due to its nature of holding excess fluid in the body; this is why you may feel or see yourself bloated and weigh more after recently eating salty food. This is called water retention and this is why when you first start to try to lose weight there is a sudden decrease in weight...it’s just water weight! Furthermore, sodium in excess can increase blood pressure in those who have hypertension and salty foods tend to be high in fat and calories so can also contribute to being overweight and obesity, which makes obesity a risk factor for CVD.


Your body holding excess fluid creates an added stress on your heart, which has to work harder to pump your body around the body. This leads to an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis (bone disease), stomach cancer and kidney disease..


HOW CAN WE AVOID THIS?

The answer is simple. But the execution? Not so much.


In a day and age where fast food and processed foods are the norm, it is difficult to escape the grips of high sodium intake, with just one slice of bread containing 58.9mg of sodium and the recommended intake of sodium intake being 2.4g for adults and 0.8g for children. [3]

Processed and prepared tend to be the cause of high sodium intake, rather than added salt in dishes, so a good habit to get into is to eat more fruit and vegetables, cutting out added salt, soy sauce and added condiments and focusing on eating fresh, whole and natural foods.

Furthermore, cutting out salty foods even just slightly can slow down the vicious cycle of craving more salty food. Before the start of civilization, finding salt was difficult so craving salt was a survival mechanism. However in modern civilization, now it is increasingly common to spurge on foods high in sodium content, since many have the luxury and choice to indulge. Now, salt is highly addictive due to our primal instincts despite salt no longer being difficult to obtain.


Finally, salt and salty foods should never be feared. Not for their possible health impacts, for the fear of retaining water weight or otherwise. But we should monitor our salt intake carefully and look after our bodies and check what we are actually putting into them; our bodies are our temples after all!


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

[1] Chrysant, S., 2016. Effects of High Salt Intake on Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Disease: The Role of COX Inhibitors. Clinical Cardiology, [online] 39(4), pp.240-242. Available at: <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/clc.22536> [Accessed 12 February 2021].

[2] Livescience.com. 2021. Why Is Too Much Salt Bad for You? | Live Science. [online] Available at: <https://www.livescience.com/36256-salt-bad-health.html#:~:text=Excess%20sodium%20increases%20blood%20pressure,stomach%20cancer%20and%20kidney%20disease.> [Accessed 12 February 2021].

[3] nhs.uk. 2021. Salt: the facts. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/salt-nutrition/#:~:text=Adults%20should%20eat%20no%20more,)%20%E2%80%93%20that's%20around%201%20teaspoon.&text=Children%20aged%3A,a%20day%20(0.8g%20sodium)> [Accessed 12 February 2021].