The world is waking up to the harm done by sodium, which comes to our plate in the form of the regular salt.
Three Indian doctors—Sanjay Kalra, Department of Endocrinology, Bharti Hospital and BRIDE, Karnal, Manisha Sahay, Department of Nephrology, Osmania Medical College, Hyderabad, and Manash P Baruah, Department of Endocrinology, Excel Hospitals, Guwahati—recently wrote an article titled ‘Reducing salt content, for a healthier world’. Their research earned rave reviews. It came at the wake of a recent United Nations announcement for a global effort to reduce salt intake and an agreement to set various global health targets for 2030, including a reduction in daily salt intake to 5 g/da. Interestingly, all these developments have led to a Japanese company inventing a thermometer-type device that measures salt content and retails online. So before you chow down on the usual favorites including pickles, papads and chutney; remember that excessive salt could lead to high blood pressure and even heart attacks in some cases.
Deepika Aggarwal, Senior Nutritionist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital explains the trend. “With increasing urban habits of eating out and consuming junk food, it has become important to spread awareness on the need to cut down the sodium content in our diets. Excessive sodium leads to high blood pressure and resultantly stress, which several young urban professionals complain of,” she says. She adds that although salt is not bad, the prevalence of sodium in it is what causes these problems. “Products such as packed juices, baking soda and products made with it and food products that have preservatives must be avoided. Use of rock salt is better than common salt and to add flavour one can always use oregano, pepper, and thyme,” says Aggarwal.
Experts suggest that consumption of less than 2.3 grams (2,300 milligrams) of sodium a day is ideal and equals six grams (about one teaspoon) of table salt a day. These six grams include all salt and sodium consumed, including that used in cooking and at the dinner table.
Vandana Mathur, PhD (Nutrition), Consulting Nutritionist, Metropolis Healthcare Limited, says, “The body spends a lot of energy eliminating things like excess protein, salt and even water. The kidneys being the body’s filter in removing waste will have to work harder if any of these are consumed or retained in the body in high levels. Sodium is essential in maintaining fluid balance, but if it is present in excess and if not properly filtered out, it can cause high blood pressure and may lead to heart attack and stroke. Too much consumption of salt-rich foods like pickle, and salted biscuits, therefore should be avoided. However, salts with high potassium content are beneficial.”
She adds that people with kidney diseases might also find it difficult to eliminate protein and water from their body. “For such people, kidneys would be overloaded if they have to handle high protein (more than 1 gm / kg of body weight), as they have to work harder to remove the blood urea nitrogen from the body,” says Mathur.
Experts suggest those with high blood pressure should consume less salt and sodium. Recent research has shown people consuming a diet of 1,500 mg of sodium enjoy better blood pressure lowering benefits. These lower-sodium diets also help blood pressure medicines work better.