Despite its historical value and its physiological importance, high salt intake has been recognized as harmful to health. Populations with low sodium intake have virtually no cases of hypertension and rates of renal and cardiovascular disease are low. In contrast, societies that consume salt excessively present increasing levels of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.
When there is excess sodium in the bloodstream, there is a stimulus to increase the amount of water inside the blood vessels. With a larger volume of blood flowing through your blood vessels, blood pressure increases. Chronic increase in blood pressure causes injury to the walls of blood vessels, especially those of small caliber. Brain, eyes, heart, and kidneys are organs especially susceptible to diseases caused by hypertension.
In addition to causing high blood pressure, the high sodium diet also interferes with the effectiveness of antihypertensive medications, making blood pressure control through remedies more difficult. Hypertensive patients who do not limit their salt intake usually need more medication and higher doses to lower their blood pressure.
The common salt or cooking salt is a millenarian condiment, composed basically of sodium and chlorine (sodium chloride – NaCl). Salt is a substance essential to health, being harmful when consumed in excess as well as sparingly.
In modern societies, salt is consumed exaggerated, far above our needs, which is why it is currently considered one of the great villains of public health. Excessive sodium intake is linked to an increased incidence of hypertension, which in turn increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and kidney damage.
In this article we will explain why salt can be harmful to health, what are the diseases that salt can cause, what are the foods rich in sodium and what are the measures we must take to minimize the risk of diseases related to excessive consumption of salt. We will also talk about various types of alternative salt, such as light salt, sea salt, rock salt and Himalayan salt.
IMPORTANCE OF SALT
Salt is a very important component in the history of mankind. At least 5000 years ago, the Chinese found that salting food was a great way to preserve it. Quickly, salt became an essential element of the societies of the time. Numerous cities were built around salt production sites and important commercial routes were established due to the salt trade. Wars were fought and empires were created by people with easy access to this mineral. Homer referred to salt as a divine substance, and Plato described it as an element “dear to the gods.”
In the Roman empire, salt was a precious commodity and many of the empire’s soldiers were paid with salt (hence the origin of the term salary).
With the invention of electricity and refrigerators, the importance of salt as a preservative has been reduced. It has become more lucrative to sell salt already added to foods than the mineral separately. Current processed foods, consumed on a large scale by the population, use salt to enhance flavor, extend the expiration date, and increase the weight of meat, since salt causes water retention.
Salt is essential to health because it is an important source of sodium, which is the body’s main extracellular cation. Sodium helps control body water volume and participates in hundreds of physiological functions. Sodium deficiency in the blood, called hyponatremia, is linked to various symptoms such as nausea, headache, prostration and, in more severe cases, seizures and coma due to cerebral edema. In addition to the consequences of hypertension, excess sodium is also related to an increased risk of several other diseases, including:
– Renal insufficiency
– Heart failure
– Stomach cancer.
– Kidney stones
To reduce salt intake you need to reduce salt intake. There are no shortcuts. All salt types contain large amounts of sodium. There is, therefore, no healthy salt.
Remember, the biggest enemy of your health is not the cooking salt that is in your house, but salt that has already been added to various foods bought in supermarkets. Pay particular attention to the packaging and look for foods low in sodium. Avoid processed, canned or pre-prepared products.
Also pay attention to false advertisements. A product may be saying in the package that it has 30% less sodium, but if the total amount of sodium is still high, this propagation is worthless because the product remains rich in salt.