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How much Salt is too much Salt?

Salt is not just to perk up the flavor of dishes but is also essential to maintaining a good health. While sodium deficiency can be problematic, excessive salt intakes have been associated with diseases and other conditions, such as hypertension and stomach cancer.

When food tastes quite bland, a sprinkling of table salt usually does the trick. Instantly, it perks up the flavor of the dish. But salt is not just for seasoning. It is also essential to maintaining good health. The human body needs a good balance of salt and water for metabolism. This careful balance between salt and water regulates the electrolytes inside and outside of the body's cells.

Salt is a chemical compound that combines sodium and chloride. It also maintains the correct volume of circulating blood and tissue fluids of the body. Our source of salt comes from food and water, while our body loses salt mainly through urine and perspiration. Loss of body salt may cause the level of fluid in the blood to drop. Losing too much salt in the body can lead to muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. Eventually lack of salt can lead to shock, coma, and death.

While sodium deficiency can be problematic, excessive salt intakes have been associated with diseases and other conditions, such as hypertension and stomach cancer. Studies revealed that Americans eat nearly two teaspoons of salt daily, considered to be more than double the amount they need for good health.

The culprit is not the table salt-shaker. Neither is the cook. Most of the sodium is hidden inside common processed foods like hot dogs, stuffing mix, gravy, and all those ingredients for your holiday goodies. Public health specialists filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of their clamor for government intervention to require food manufacturers to cut down on sodium content in the products they bring to the market. Their campaign is part of their fight heart disease. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group, and food makers held an unprecedented, closed-door meeting on how to reduce sodium.

The American Medical Association (AMA) says that reducing sodium content in processed and restaurant foods by fifty percent within 10 years could wind up saving 150,000 lives annually. However, food manufacturers argue that it would take a tremendous investment on the part of the government and the industry to come up with sodium alternatives that works well with food. On the other hand, studies show that people who get used to eating less salt even in just a few months usually find their old foods too salty.

High blood pressure is experienced by at least one in three U.S. adults and almost 1 billion people worldwide. On the other hand, hypertension is a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.

Aside from obesity and inactivity, too much salt also raises blood pressure. While the average American consumes between 3,300 and 4,000 milligrams of sodium a day, the recommended daily requirement set by the government is 2,300 mg a day as the safe upper limit. But the Institute of Medicine says that 1,500 mg a day, a little less for older adults, is enough to regulate the body's fluid balance.

Freezing technology can help bring down the sodium level of some frozen vegetables, though other foods may get saltier. Now that summer is here, 4th of July BBQ alone can easily reach those limits. Think of the burgers, hot dogs, salt-injected buns, and more. Homemade cooking, however, can help you regulate the sodium content of the ingredients and recipes.

Like everything else, using salt is a matter of balance. Do not add salt to your plate out of habit. Taste the food first and see if it is really needed. When cooking use just a small amount of salt and add more later if needed. Avoid processed foods as much as possible since they are loaded with sodium.


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