Salt is one of the vital ingredients of cooking. We all know how bland a food without salt would taste. But, at the same time, too much of salt is also known to be harmful to health as it is the cause of many serious ailments.
The chemical formulation of salt is Sodium Chloride. There is 0.4 g of Sodium in every gram of salt. It is an essential electrolyte that plays a major role in the fluid maintenance of our body. However, over usage of salt results in excess Sodium intake and is considered highly dangerous.
One of the most dangerous health hazards posed by excess sodium intake is increase in blood pressure. A report suggests that on an average, a person in India takes in 9 g of salt per day, and this is the reason for the increasing number of hypertension cases in the country.
Effects of excess salt intake
Apart from hypertension, some of the most common problems caused by excess salt intake include:
- Kidney disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Stomach cancer
- Digestive problems, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
- Epilepsy (particularly in infants and young children)
How much salt is good?
Doctors recommend that just 5 g of salt should be consumed every day, as this is the right quantity required by the body. Anything more than this is sure to cause problems on the longer run. Continued usage of excess salt is known to cause ailments including osteoporosis, respiratory problems and cancer, even in youngsters.
What are the foods to avoid?
Many foods have salt in them and are equally dangerous as using raw salt. Some of these that you should avoid are:
- Junk food including fried chips
- Baked food and carbonated drinks
- Instant soups, noodles and cereals
- Pickles, papads and sausages
- Salted butter, cheese and sauces
- Pizzas, burgers and chat items
- Deep-fried and packaged snacks
- Salted and dried sea food
In addition to common salt, additives like Monosodium glutamate (MSG), Baking soda and Sodium Benzoate should also be avoided. Other varieties of salt such as black salt, Himalayan rock salt and sea salt should also be used in moderation.
Alternatives to salt
You might be worried that your food will not taste good if you cut down on the salt. But, you can compensate this by using herbs and spices that not only make the dish tastier, but also offer health and wellness. Lemon juice is one such good alternative for salt.
In reality, our body needs very little salt for its metabolism, and this too can be had from various foods that contain natural salt in them. So, next time you reach out to a pinch of salt, just ask yourself if you really need it.
Smitha Suresh is a Chennai-based nutritionist experienced in clinical fitness and corporate nutrition counselling.