Monday, 9 November 2009

How Much Is Too Much?

Do we have any idea how much salt we're eating?

The food Standards Agency have finally cottoned on to the fact that the likelihood is we have no idea whatsoever. This is because so many of the foods we buy in boxes and packets now have salt added, even breakfast cereals and bread! Why?

Apparently a total of 75% of the salt we eat comes from our everyday foods, take that as processed, by the way. This is because the foods that contribute most salt to our diets are not necessarily the saltiest but the ones we eat most often - processed again. Half the time I think we'd be hard pushed to actually taste the salt in these foods - sweet breakfast cereals??

The recommended salt intake for the average adult is 6g a day. We are currently averaging 8.6g. In view of this the Food Standards Agency are currently running an ad campaign that you may already have heard (I've heard it lots on the radio), asking us to pay closer attention to the salt levels in our food.

To find out more about it you can log on to, but here's a bit more general information that may be useful on salt and why we DO need some in our diets.

Salt comes in the form of sodium chloride, two elements that combine to create something unique and useful to our bodies. We need it for the following reasons:

- salt helps to balance blood sugar levels
- salt is a strong, natural antihistamine
- salt can help prevent muscle cramps (and we all know how painful they can be)
- salt is needed in order to make the structure of the bones firm
- salt helps to clear the lungs of sticky, yakky mucuousy type stuff
- salt is needed for the absorption of food particles through the intestines
- salt stops excess acidity in the body

Having cleared the fact that yes we do need salt in our diets there is a big difference in the types of salt we need. Most of the salt in commercially produced processed food is refined table salt.

Refined table salt often contains other 'things' to bulk it up such as anti caking agents (which potentially are aluminium based), dextrose (a sugar) , sodium silicoaluminate and sodium acetate - the latter two are thought to be associated with kidney disturbances, mineral malabsorption and water retention.

Eating too much refined table salt is surrounded by differing medical opinions but the general view is that it can lead to high blood pressure and increased chances of heart disease.

On the other hand natural, unprocessed sea salts can be beneficial to an already healthy diet - they contain many trace minerals necessary for nutrition and regulating our bodily systems.

So for a healthy salt intake ;

- check the labels of processed food particularly bread and breakfast cereals. You may be shocked at the levels of salt contained in them.Try adding up your consumption in a day.

- use unprocessed sea salt - the best kind is from New Zealand if you can get it.

- always taste foods before adding salt. You may find they really don't need any more adding.

- If you eat a generally, healthy diet full of organic fruits and vegetables and quality meat and fish, adding sea salt will enhance your diet by adding nutrition.

- Adding a pinch of sea salt to a bottle of water will help keep electrolyte and energy levels up , if you are already drinking enough water(don't do this if you already salt your food liberally and eat heaps of processed foods)

- reduce your intake of unnecessary salt by reducing your processed food consumption. This includes fast food outlets where salt is used in vast quantities.

Reducing the amount of processed foods in your diet will help in all areas, not just salt reduction - they contain way too much sugar, wrong types of fats and plenty of chemicals too.Why would you want excess amounts of all of those swimming around inside you?

Hope this was useful.

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