Salt- Our survival needs: How much should we consume the whole day?

Our Table Salt is a crystalline solid which is beautifully composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride by nature.

Salt is vital for life and saltiness is one of the fundamental human tastes found in nature. Salt contains sodium, which is an essential nutrient for individual survival. Sodium plays a vital role in electrolyte balance, osmotic solute, blood pressure, and nerve pulse transmission, and generation.    

How does salt function in our bodies?

Salt’s main content is sodium, which is a cation or positive ion in extracellular fluid in humans. 

By water and salt balance

It is one of the straightforward mechanisms of our body. This means when the salt level in the body is elevated, our brain is excited to make us thirsty. We drink more water and urinate more to expel excess salt from the body. 

Osmoreceptor and hypothalamus sense the balance of sodium and water concentration in the body by a feedback mechanism. 

The scientist finds that whatever the salt intake, sodium was stored and released from the person’s body in weekly and monthly patterns, and changes in salt consumption also influence the levels of a hormone secreted by the kidney i.e. aldosterone and glucocorticoids, which rhythmically control the body salt and water balance. The conclusion shows that the body manages its salt and water balance not only by clearing excess sodium in the urine but also by actively preserving or releasing water in urine. 

What should be our daily consumption of salt?

Increasing the generation of more processed food, rapid urbanization, and altering lifestyles are molding dietary patterns. People throughout the world are consuming more energy-dense food that is high in saturated fats, trans fats, sugar, and salt.

It is determined that our body only needs 186 mg of sodium per day to perform actively.

  • WHO counsels adults to consume less than 2g-5g of salt per day. 
  • Institute of Medicine suggests 1500 mg of sodium per day. 
  • American Heart Association advises a limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for adults.

In children, the amount of salt depends on their age, like;

  • 1-3 years can consume up to 2g of salt per day.
  • 4-6 years can consume up to 3g of salt per day.
  • 7-10 years can consume up to 5g of salt per day.
  • 11 years and more can consume up to 6g of salt per day.

Breastfeed babies get their right amount of salt and minerals from breast milk. Don’t add salt to your baby’s milk because their kidneys are not well developed to process it. And avoid giving processed food or chips because they are often high in salt.

These limits learned after the studies that sodium intake more than 2300 mg or 2.3g per day can adversely affect blood pressure and increase heart diseases. But these limits do not apply to highly active people like athletes or people who sweat a lot.

Check salt on labels before buying

Don’t confuse salt and sodium figures labeled on food items. To convert sodium to salt, just multiply sodium amount by 2.5.

Nutrition labels on food items make it easier to look out the salt or sodium content in every food you buy. Or have color-coded nutrition information to show salt concentration like:

  • Green suggests low salt concentration.
  • Amber suggests medium salt concentration.
  • Red suggests high salt concentration. 

Other labeled terms that may you found on food packages are:

  • Sodium free has less than 5 mg of sodium or doesn’t contain sodium chloride.
  • Very low sodium has 35 mg or less sodium
  • Low sodium have 140 mg or less
  • Reduced or less sodium have 25% per serving than usual level of sodium
  • Light sodium has 50% reduced-sodium per serving.

But remember, sodium level depends and varies on the brand or restaurant products.

Some foods are always high in salt because the way they are made (bread, breakfast cereals, pasta sauces, crisps, pizza, sausages, tomato ketchup, and mayonnaise), or found naturally, such as anchovies, bacon, cheese, gravy granules, ham, olives, prawns, salt fish, smoked meat and fish, yeast extract.

What happens if a person consumes high salt concentration?

It can be said that salt has a direct link to blood pressure, because consuming high salt causes damage to blood vessels, elevates blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, heart failure, or kidney diseases.

The largest research on this topic using the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology trials (PURE), analyses the urine level of people more than 100,000 from 18 countries, found that those people who consume high salt intake had significantly higher blood pressure than those with low intake.  

Using the same data other scientists concluded that people who consume more than 7 g of sodium in a day had a higher risk of heart disease and early death.

Too little salt intake could be harmful!

Sodium deficiency is a very rare condition and low sodium intake to the prescribed levels may be harmful.

According to the National Library of Medicine research article “people with low sodium intake have increased risk of CVS events and deaths are observed in those with or without hypertension”.

People who consume low salt have a higher chance to face the risk of developing a condition called hyponatremia, which occurs when the sodium level in the blood becomes too dilute and causes the cell to swell up with water. Inflamed cells cause myriad health problems like headaches, nausea, fatigue, or may even lead to a life-threatening condition.

On the other hand, people who have decreased kidney function or who take medicines to affect sodium levels like diuretics have a higher risk of hyponatremia.  

Types of salts

Salt is something that highlights and suppresses the different flavors in our meal. There are 12 different types of salt with different qualities and all can be used in cooking and medical treatments.

  1. Table salt: our daily used salt and have an anti-caking agent to keep from clumping.
  2. Kosher salt: it dissolves quickly and makes it a perfect cooking salt in the U.S.
  3. Sea salt: used in cooking, cosmetics, and for the preservation of food. Also called bay salt, solar salt. 
  4. Himalaya pink salt: it is the purest form of salt that contains 84 natural minerals. It is used in spa treatment purposes and kitchen too.
  5. Celtic sea salt: also known and sel gris.
  6. Fleur de sel: it is expensive and has another name “flower of salt” or “the caviar of salt”. It is even sweet like chocolate and caramel.
  7. Kala namak: it is used as laxatives and relieves flatulence and heartburn. It is used to make hysteria and in making tooth-paste.
  8. Flake salt: used as fishing salt.
  9. Black Hawaiian salt: it acts great laxative that helps to relieve bowel problems, muscle cramps, and muscle spasm. also used to finish dishes like eggs, salad, or deserts.
  10. Red Hawaiian salt: Hawaiians used it in native dishes like poke, pipikaula. It is also used for medical purposes.
  11. Smoked salt: it has dynamic flavor. It is used to enhance the flavor of a dish.
  12. Pickling salt: same as table salt but does not contain iodine and anti-caking agent. Used for canning and manufacturing pickles.

General Queries

Q. How much salt should we eat in a day and year?

Adults can eat 6g of salt is equal to 2.4g or sodium and around 1 teaspoon per day. And 1,996 pounds, or approximately tons in a year. 

Q.What happens if we eat low salt or no salt, what will be the effects?

Everyday our body loses little sodium in sweat or in the urine. Generally, the effects will not trigger you until you are severely malnourished with hyponatremia, and symptoms are muscle cramp, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, shock, coma, or may lead to death.  

Q. What are the signs and symptoms, if you are consuming too much salt?

Adding too much salt in meals can have a serious problem with your health. Checking how much salt you are consuming is good, here some signs and symptoms that you are consuming too much salt are;

  • Frequent urination.
  • Persistent thirst.
  • Swelling in different parts of the body, especially face and around eyes.
  • Crave for more salt in the meal.
  • On and off a headache 
  • Have persistent high blood pressure.
  • Feeling  pain in the left shoulder and neck.

Before you leave!

As it is said “Salt is what makes things taste bad when it is not in them” but moderation is the key. Too much salt can cause you severe heart diseases and too little salt makes your meal tasteless and affects your body by the confused mind, un-freshness, dizziness, and lethargy body.

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