Why Is Salt Bad for You?

The average adult currently consumes 9g to 12g of salt per day, according to the World Health Organization. This is substantially larger than the 6g or a teaspoon of salt we are encouraged to eat in a day. Much of the salt we get in our diet daily is "hidden". In fact, nearly 80% of our daily salt is from foods like breakfast cereals, biscuits, bread, processed foods, fast foods and prepared meals. People only get about 20% of the salt from what they add either while cooking or when eating. Proper consumption of salt isn’t bad. It provides flavor, preserves food, and is a good source of the chloride and sodium ions that our body needs. Why is salt bad for you? It is the overabundance that causes problems.

Why Is Too Much Salt Bad for You?

Eating too much salt can cause the following problems.

1.   Kidney Diseases

Kidneys serve an important role in removing unwanted fluid and filtering blood. Through osmosis, extra fluid is moved to the bladder for urine. When you consume extra salt, the balance is wrecked and your kidneys have to work harder to remove the water. This can cause higher blood pressure and over time, kidney failure. This happens when your kidneys are no longer able to act as a filter, therefore slowly poisoning the blood.

2.   Thickened Arteries

When you live with high blood pressure caused by excess consumption of salt, you are putting a strain on your arteries. To cope with that strain, your artery walls will become thicker and stronger, reducing their elasticity and leaving less space in the arteries. This causes bursting arteries and clogs. The clogs can bring damage to other organs as they are left with less oxygen.

3.   Heart Diseases

When your blood pressure is raised by eating too much salt, you can end up with damage to the heart’s arteries. This can mean a slight reduction in the blood flow to the heart. Your heart will not be able to perform optimally because it’s starved for nutrients and oxygen. You may experience sharp chest pains when active. Over time, the damage may become so severe that part of your heart can die, causing a heart attack.

4.   Brain Damage

Another reason to consider "why is salt bad for you" is that it can lead to brain damage when over-consumed. With long-term high blood pressure and thickened arteries, less blood can reach the brain, leading to vascular dementia.

5.   Water Retention

When you have an incorrect balance of sodium and potassium, you will start to see problems. Sodium outside of your cell walls helps to determine the amount of water your body retains. When you eat too much salt, your kidneys won’t release as much water to urine. As a result, you may see swelling or edema in parts of your body.

6.   Inflammation & Auto-Immune Diseases

Yale researchers also discovered that mice who consumed a high-salt diet ended up with cells that were highly inflammatory, causing defense system in the body to break down. Then they developed autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

The researchers also believe the cells may lead to more auto-immune troubles in the form of type 1 diabetes, asthma, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. It is believe that this can only be preventative and that reducing your sodium intake will not reverse an auto-immune condition.

7.   Obesity

Why is salt bad for you? The addition of 1g more salt to your daily diet has been correlated with an increased chance of up to 25% in obesity. Salt can affect the body’s metabolic rate. When it is over-consumed, the ability to absorb fat will be affected. But it’s important to note that there is no link between decreasing salt intake and losing weight. A study of close to 800 teens in the US, between 14 and 18 years old, found those who consumed high levels of salt were likely to be heavier and have inflammation, regardless of the number of calories.

8.   Stomach Cancer

Published article reviews have shown there is an increased risk of getting stomach cancer in those who ate a high-salt diet compared to those with low salt intake. It’s also true that the more salt you eat the more your risk increases. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, more salt can increase risk of chronic H. Pylori infection. This is a bacterial infection which causes stomach ulcers and chronic inflammation. Secondly, it’s thought that salt may irritate the stomach lining, creating inflammation. This makes the stomach more vulnerable to carcinogens from food and cookware.

9.   Osteoporosis

This condition is marked by brittle or weak bones that break easily. Consuming too much salt can increase the sodium amount in your body, causing calcium excreted through urine. While all foods have some natural sodium, it is found that table salt is the true culprit to this problem.

How to Lower Salt Intake

To consume less salt, you must first understand how much is too much. This table will help you get a better idea.

Age

Max. Amount of Salt Per Day

Max. Amount of Sodium Per Day

1-3 years

2g

0.8g

4-6 years

3g

1.2g

7-10

5g

2g

11 years and over

6g

2.4g

Reduce Salt in Your Diet

Quit worrying about "why is salt bad for you", and start reducing it in your diet with these tips:

  • Enjoy more foods that are fresh.
  • Use whole grain bread and pasta without added seasonings. If you use packaged rice/noodles, only use half of the seasoning pack.
  • Cook from scratch, especially soups.
  • Use herbs, spices and other salt-free ways to season your food.
  • Rinse canned foods like beans and veggies. Buy low-sodium versions when you can.
  • Use fresh meats instead of processed ones like lunch meats and hot dogs. Avoid items that have been injected with sodium-containing solutions.
  • Look for low-sodium breakfast foods.

Watch For Foods That Contain Salt

These foods may contain hidden salt; limit or remove them from your diet.

  • Pretzels
  • Pickles
  • Chips and crackers
  • Canned veggies
  • Cold cuts/processed meat
  • Bacon
  • Packaged soup
  • Condiments like ketchup, soy sauce, mustard and salad dressing
  • Boxed dinners
  • Frozen dinners, breakfasts and snacks
  • Breads and baked goods
  • Food preservatives that contain sodium
 
 
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