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How Much Salt Should One Person Have?

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How Much Salt Should One Person Have?

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Sodium, commonly called salt, is a flavoring agent added to foods. Read this article to learn more about salt intake in detail.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At November 18, 2013
Reviewed AtJune 14, 2022

Introduction:

Sodium is a common mineral found naturally in foods and is added as a flavoring agent in most preparations at home and restaurants. Salt remains one of the essential ingredients in a person’s diet. The flavoring agent is added to almost every kind of food, even some sweet preparations (take a look at the covers of those chocolate biscuits you love - Yes! Surprise surprise, salt is there too). It is also contained in most of the food materials, vegetables, etc. Safe amounts of salt intake has always remained a point of concern and debate. It is found that large amounts of salt intake can damage the walls of the blood vessels (arteries), causing heart problems, stroke, and kidney diseases.

Despite the buzz around salt intake, scholars recommend salt as an important mineral the body needs. Sodium is essential for various actions like muscle contraction and relaxation, maintaining the optimum levels of water and minerals, and nerve impulse conduction. Nearly 500 mg of sodium is essential for doing all the above functions.

How Much Salt Should a Person Have?

  • It has always been advised that the person on an average diet should restrict the consumption of salt to 2300 mg/day. Of course, it is common knowledge that patients with cardiac conditions and hypertension should have a lower sodium intake (approximately 1550 mg/day).

  • The latest recommendations are less - 2000 mg per day - consumption of salt. The American Heart Association, of course, prescribes a much lower intake of salt - 1500 mg/day.

  • It is of interest that the highest salt intake has been found in Kazakhstan (6000 mg/day) and the least intake was found in Malawi (2000 mg/day).

  • The most common source of sodium in the diet is usually canned foods and commercially available foods. Salt and soy sauce added during cooking increase substantially and significantly the sodium content of the food.

  • Most of the salt ingested in food is largely excreted by urine (almost 90 %).

How Can Excess Salt Affect One's Body?

  • A significant relationship has been found and known between hypertension and salt intake or with sodium excreted in urine. Higher the salt intake, higher the excretion. So, of course, both are related to hypertension. A direct relation has been found between the reduction in salt intake and lowering of blood pressure.

  • Excess salt in the diet leads to fluid retention thereby raising the blood volume. This results in high blood pressure and symptoms of breathlessness and limb swelling in the short term.

  • Over the longer term, high blood pressure can cause kidney and heart disease, heart attacks, heart failure, Meniere’s syndrome (a kind of inner ear disorder that also affects balance) and premenstrual syndrome.

  • Hypertension, of course, is a multifactorial disease and therefore there are other features affecting the blood pressure, inclusive of alcohol intake, high body mass index, genetic defects, and low potassium excretion.

What Are the Options to Replace Salt?

  • Low sodium content diets should be taken. Roughly 120 mg/day or less is advised.

  • DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet associates significant drop in systolic blood pressure with the lower sodium content. Salt, however, is a major component that makes food palatable.

  • Other options to replace this ingredient are acids (like citrus and fruit juices, vinegar) and potassium chloride. The latter should, of course, be avoided in patients with kidney dysfunction. Potassium chloride should also be avoided in people who are using certain medications, namely Lithium and potassium-sparing antihypertensives. Other spices may also be helpful - garlic, onion, and herbs. Those people who have no option but to buy commercially available foods, use foods with 'no added salt' or ‘low salt.’

  • While patients initially feel the food to be bland, they adapt quickly to low salt foods. Surprisingly, even total avoidance of salt reduces sodium excretion by just 15 %.

Here Are Some Tips to Reduce Salt Intake -

  • Have more home-cooked meals. In that sodium intake will be in check.

  • Wash the canned foods containing salt.

  • Eat a small portion of food, which denotes lesser intake of salt.

  • Avoid using salt as a flavoring agent. Use herbs and spices for flavors instead.

  • Always check the contents on the food packets to know about the salt content. Accordingly make a wise choice.

What Happens When One Takes too Less Salt?

  • Patients who take too low salt may develop problems related to hyponatremia, for example, muscle cramps, altered sensorium, etc. Common signs of hyponatremia are nausea, confusion, irritability, weakness, headache, restlessness, coma (in severe cases). If seizures are present, the patient should be immediately taken to the hospital. It is most common in aged people. If left untreated for some time, it can complicate and result in chronic hyponatremia. It can be treated with intravenous fluids and medications.

  • On the flip side, low salt in the diet should be avoided in salt wasters (part of renal or gastrointestinal disease in some patients), and pre-eclampsia (a condition with high blood pressure and extremely high protein content in the urine of pregnant women).

Is It Necessary to Limit Salt Intake?

It is necessary to limit salt intake, especially in people suffering from high blood pressure. It is acceptable to stick to a minimal salt intake diet. Certain studies suggest, taking less than 3 grams of salt per day, increases the risk of heart diseases and has a negative impact on the overall health.

People with blood pressure can also follow a few other points, in addition to reduced salt intake, to keep blood pressure in check.

  • Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is important. Lettuce, spinach, and beetroot should be added to the diet. Taking a lot of magnesium and potassium-containing foods will help lower blood pressure.

  • Exercise paves way for amazing health benefits. It helps a lot to keep blood pressure in check. A simple walk for 30 minutes a day will provide great benefits.

  • Cutting down on alcohol consumption is essential for people suffering from blood pressure. Reducing alcohol intake can provide numerous health benefits.

Conclusion:

Reducing salt intake can definitely benefit us in leading a healthy life. Education is necessary on this topic, so that people will be more aware of how to use salt in the diet effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Which Is the Healthy Salt Substitute?

A salt is a form of sodium. Sodium is an essential mineral as it helps maintain the body's electrolyte balance. Low-sodium salts are used as salt substitutes.

2.

Consumption of Salt Substitutes Is Good or Not?

Low-sodium salt or sodium-free salt are known as salt substitutes. They are relatively good for health. They have a lesser risk of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues, which are generally associated with sodium intake.

3.

What Kind of Salt Is Good for Blood Pressure?

Pink salt is recommended for patients with high blood pressure and is much lighter and healthier than regular salts.

4.

What Is the Difference Between Pink Salt and Regular Salt?

Yes, pink salt is better than regular salt. The pink salts consist of less sodium as compared to common white salt. The consumption of pink salt is recommended to reduce the risk of developing blood pressure and heart problems.

5.

Which Is More Harmful to the Body, Salt or Sugar?

It is believed that salt and sugar intake is considered harmful to health. However, few studies indicate that sugar intake is worse as it increases the risk of developing systemic disorders like hypertension and heart disease.

6.

What Is the Correct Amount of Salt We Should Take Daily?

Salt is a form of sodium mineral essential for electrolyte balance and conducting muscle and nerve impulses. Therefore, it is vital to have sodium in a diet. Around 186 mg of salt is needed for the body to function properly.

7.

What Signs Are Observed That the Body Needs Salt?

Reduced sodium intake can lead to electrolyte imbalance, causing nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, irritability, fatigue, and energy loss.

8.

What Happens When the Salt Intake Is Not Enough?

If a diet does not have enough salt, it leads to sodium deficiency, causing hyponatremia. It is a life-threatening condition caused by excessive water retention in the body that leads to sodium dilution.

9.

What Happens if Salt Intake Is Stopped for a Month?

If an individual does not have sufficient salt, they tend to develop sodium deficiency, causing hyponatremia, and prolonged deficiency can lead to chronic kidney disease, cirrhosis, hypothyroidism, and congestive heart failure.

10.

What Are the Ways to Test Your Sodium Level at Home?

If an individual is on a salt-restricted diet, a device called a hydrometer can be used to determine sodium levels.

11.

Why Should You Limit Your Salt Intake?

It is recommended to limit salt intake to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular diseases, and heart attacks.

12.

What Are the Other Natural Sources of Sodium?

Sodium is naturally found in celery, beets, milk, and eggs.

13.

What Is the Importance of Limiting Sodium Intake?

Yes, limiting salt intake in your diet is essential to avoid the risk of developing potential heart problems and high blood pressure.

14.

Why Salt and Sodium Are Different?

It is a common misconception that salt and sodium are the same things. But salts are crystal-like sodium chloride compounds, whereas sodium is a dietary mineral.
Dr. Saumya Mittal
Dr. Saumya Mittal

Internal Medicine

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hypertension
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