How Eating Less Salt can Change Your Life

Monday, 22 Nov 2010 11:20 AM

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Restricting your consumption of sodium is crucial to maintaining good heart and renal health. An average diet includes sodium intake of up to 4000 to 5000 mg — much higher than the recommended daily dietary allowance (RDA) of 2400-mg sodium. Most processed and packaged snacks contain a high amount of sodium. Because of this, it is imperative that we know the effects of high sodium on our body and how eating less salt can change our health and life.
 
Effects of sodium
A teaspoon of table salt contains approx 2300 mg of sodium, quite close to the RDA for sodium. Eating less salt has its own benefits, as adequate levels of sodium in the body help maintain the optimum electrolyte balance, regulate nerve impulses, and influence muscular contractions. Our kidneys balance the level of sodium in the body. However, consumption of more sodium than the body can handle may result in problems ranging from kidney disorders to heart failure. As sodium levels increase, the body starts retaining more water, causing the blood volume to increase. Due to increased blood volume, the heart needs to pump harder to push more blood through the arteries, thus causing an increase in blood pressure. Moreover, people with diabetes or high cholesterol levels tend to be more sensitive to the adverse effects of high sodium levels. They retain more sodium in the body than healthy adults. This leads to fluid retention, excessive thirst and urination, dizziness, and even hypertension.
 
Other causes of sodium imbalance
Apart from dietary sodium intake, there are many diseases such as diabetes insipidus, kidney diseases, and pituitary malfunction that may cause sodium imbalance. A hormone called vasopressin, also called the antidiuretic hormone, plays a pivotal role in regulating the sodium level in our body. If less vasopressin is produced by the pituitary glands, the body is unable to retain water in the blood which causes sodium levels to rise.
 
How to reduce sodium intake
Eating less salt is necessary to regulate the sodium level in the body, especially for children, the elderly, and those with diabetes. People suffering from hyper tension, diabetes, and kidney diseases should limit their salt intake to about 1500 mg. Ensure that you are eating less salt by reading labels carefully, avoiding salty snacks and fast foods, restricting the use of canned foods without draining the brine completely, and cutting down on pickled foods, processed salad dressings and sauces, meats, and shell fish consumption. Include a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains in the diet and be active to maintain sodium at an optimum level.

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