Are you eating too much salt?
Salt is a mineral composed primarily of SODIUM CHLORIDE, which exists in its natural form as a crystalline mineral is known as “rock salt” or ”halite”. Salt is essential for life in general, and saltiness is one of the basic human tastes. It is one of the oldest food seasonings, and it has been an important ingredient in food preservation, especially meat, for thousands of years. While sodium is an essential nutrient for human health, excessive salt consumption may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension.
All through history, the availability of salt has been pivotal to civilization, it was one of the world’s main trading commodities, of high value to the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. In Africa, salt was used as currency south of the Sahara, merchants in the 6th century traded salt for gold, weight for weight, and in the Middle East, salt was used to ceremonially seal an agreement.
Salt is essential to the health of humans and other animals, it is used in many cuisines around the world, and is also an ingredient in many manufactured foodstuffs.
Types of Salt.
There are a varied array of cooking salts in the market with different colors, textures and flavors. These flavors and colors are due to extra minerals and sometimes algae in the salt. It is however important to note that regardless of color or flavor, the base component in all these varieties of salt is SODIUM CHLORIDE. Different natural salts have different minerals, depending on their source, giving each one a unique flavor. Table salt is made up of just under 40% sodium by weight so, 1 teaspoon of salt is equivalent to 6 grams in weight.
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Fortified table salt; Table salt is a refined salt containing about 97% to 99% sodium chloride. Some table salt sold for consumption contains additives which address a variety of health concerns. Iodized salt has been used to correct iodine deficiency since 1924, and has significantly reduced disorders of iodine deficiency in countries where it is used. Other ingredients in some fortified salts around the world include: iron salts, folic acid, fluoride salts and so on.
Sea salt; Unrefined sea salt contains small amounts of magnesium and calcium halides and sulfates, traces of algal products, salt-resistant bacteria and sediment particles. Sea salt may have a more complex flavor than pure sodium chloride when sprinkled on top of food.
Himalayan salt is salt with a distinct pink color
Kosher salt has a larger grain size than table salt and can be useful for brining, baking, and as a scrubbing agent when combined with oil.
Pickling salt is made of ultra-fine grains to speed dissolving to make brine.
Sodium consumption and health
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults consume less than 5 grams (just under a teaspoon) of salt per day. Sodium serves a vital purpose in the human body: via its role as an electrolyte, it helps nerves and muscles to function correctly, and it is one factor involved in the regulation of water content in body organs. Most of the sodium in our diet comes from salt/sodium chloride although it can come from sodium glutamate (MSG), present in a variety of stock cubes and seasonings. Many processed and pre-packaged foods have a high salt content. We generally consume too much salt—on average 9–12 grams /day, (about twice the recommended maximum level).
High sodium intake greater than 5 grams salt/day is associated with a greater risk of hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease. A reduction in sodium intake by 1 gram/day may reduce cardiovascular disease by about 30%. Low sodium diet results in a greater improvement in blood pressure in people with hypertension, and reducing salt intake has been identified as one of the most cost-effective measures countries can take to improve population health outcomes. An estimated 2.5 million deaths could be prevented each year if global salt consumption were reduced to the recommended level.
How to reduce sodium in our meals
When buying prepared and prepackaged foods, read the labels. Watch for the words “soda” and “sodium” and the symbol “Na” on labels, which warn you that these products contain sodium compounds. Note that “low salt” or “low sodium” foods also contain salt, just in lower quantities.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Use fruit and raw vegetables as snacks.
Select unsalted nuts instead of the salted variety.
Reduce amount of salt and stock cubes in homemade dishes.
No added salt at the table.
Certain salt substitutes contain a large amount of potassium and very little sodium. They are not expensive and may be used freely by most people, except those with kidney disease. Talk with your health care professional about whether a salt substitute is right for you.
Learn to use spices and herbs to enhance the natural flavor of food.
Add fresh lemon juice instead of salt to season fish and vegetables.
Dr Monisola Adanijo FMCP a Cardiologist and the Medical Director at Naveen Healthcare.
With experience spanning over 20 years, she built her pathway in medicine and cardiology working in reputable medical centres such as Mecure Healthcare Limited, Barnes Hospital, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Chevron Hospital, Lagos to mention but a few.
Her passion for preventive cardiology led her to convene the Naveen Healthcare 10,000 Hearts Project, in order to help individuals detect, protect and correct cardiovascular diseases.
She launched the first TeleElectrocardiogram project in Nigeria and West Africa and does her part in contributing to good health and wellbeing, a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG3) of the United Nations.