Understanding Sodium: How to Change Your Sodium Intake?
Salt is a frequently misunderstood element of our diet. It is extremely essential for our well-being but at the same time, we constantly hear people and experts talking about how to reduce salt intake.
In order to understand the truth, it is important to note that it’s not the consumption of salt but excessive consumption of sodium that is a concern. Sodium is a compound found naturally in foods. One teaspoon of salt contains 2400 milligrams of sodium and the amount recommended for daily consumption is approximately the same. The amount of recommended sodium intake reduces further to approximately 1500 mg under conditions such as hypertension, kidney issues, water retention, heart condition to name a few. But these problems are usually correlated with high consumption of sugar and fat along with sodium. In most cases, the source of this excess sodium, sugar and fat can be processed food as opposed to freshly cooked, homemade meals.
In fact, it is important to note that sodium is an essential element found in salt and supports our well-being. It helps in contracting and relaxing of muscles, maintaining adequate fluid balance, preventing dehydration, preventing low blood pressure and is essential for sending nervous system impulses.
Why Should You Consume Salt?
1. Hydration:The number one reason to consume salt. Drink salt water early in the morning for the energy boost and hydration.
2. Sodium present in salt stimulates muscle contraction and helps to prevent your muscles from cramping. It is also important in the prevention of sunstroke especially in the summer seasons.
3. Digestion: Salt has a role in the processes of digestion and absorption. Salt activates an enzyme in the mouth called salivary amylase and allows your taste buds to taste the food. Salt helps in breaking down food aiding digestion. Salt also creates hydrochloric acid which is important for optimal digestion.
4. Condiment: Salt is used as a condiment to add flavor to foods and as well as a preservative. I personally use it in making achars at home with fermented veggies and some herbs which can be good probiotics.
Considering the benefits of salt, it is clear that it isn’t the consumption of salt that is leading to health disorders but the excessive consumption of it. Here are few ways to avoid consuming it more than required.
1. Limit consumption of packaged foods rich in sodium such as breads, biscuits, papads, salted wafers, popcorns, canned foods, salted nuts, and pickles, processed meats such as ham, bacon, sausages, salami, packaged foods and soup cubes.
2. Limit products with MSG (monosodium glutamate) and sodium benzoate.
3. Use fresh veggies and fruits rather than canned
4. Try herbs like ginger, turmeric, thyme, cinnamon, parsley, basil, rosemary, dill to flavour foods along with salt.
5. Try salt with reduced sodium content such as Tata Salt Lite which has 15% reduced sodium compared to regular salt. If you are on a potassium restricted diet, please consult your doctor before use.
It is important to understand that the key is to achieve a balance in consuming sodium with respect to health goals. You reduce it when a health condition demands it and increase in circumstances such as low blood pressure, muscle cramps especially during exercise and dehydration. Consult with your doctor about your low sodium requirements before making any drastic changes to your diet to ensure good health always.
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