Salt: Getting the Balance Right

Our bodies are made up from two-thirds water. Not just plain old H2O, but water with added electrolytes. Electrolytes have many important functions in the body and it is critical that we have the right amounts of each one. The three main electrolytes are sodium, potassium and chloride. They control the water balance in our bodies, the acidity of our blood and are critical in nerve and muscle function.

The fluid inside each living cell within our body is high in potassium, whereas the fluid outside our cells is high in sodium. If we have too much salt or sodium chloride in our diet, that balance is thrown out. Too much sodium begins to enter our cells causing cell damage. This results in high blood pressure but is also a factor in diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

High Salt: Bad for the heart

Studies have shown that a high salt intake increases the risk of stroke by 23% and heart attack by 30%. A high salt diet leads to poor blood vessel flexibility, causing reduced blood flow, increased blood pressure and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. A simple reduction in salt intake can often reverse this by improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure.

Cut down on the salt in your diet by eating less processed foods, less fast food and eating out less often. Restaurant meals, fast food and processed foods account for more than three-quarters of the salt we eat. Bread and cereals can also add a lot of salt to the diet as they eaten in such large quantities. Eating fresh, natural, home-cooked foods is the best way to follow a low-salt diet.

Salt is one of the three bad guys when it comes to processed food. The other two are sugar and fat. The food companies use those three to get you hooked and to hide the true taste of what you are eating.

Minerals for protection

Potassium and magnesium are the two minerals which counteract the bad effects of salt. Low magnesium is linked to higher heart attack risk whilst low potassium is a factor in high blood pressure. Magnesium-rich foods include beans, peas, seeds, nuts, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are the best source of potassium.

If you play sports, then it is very important to keep hydrated. It is not enough to drink just water, as your body cannot absorb it quickly enough. Drinking a sports drink with added sugar and electrolytes means you will stay hydrated, prevent cramps and keep your energy levels high. Even better, drink coconut water that is a naturally balanced mixture of electrolytes, sugar and water.

Green fact – salt is mined from underground or produced by the evaporation of seawater or brine from salt lakes, and often has a devastating impact on the local environment, For instance, a coastal salt mine in Mexico destroyed the nearby ocean lagoon. 

Author: Jane of Green Eatz

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