Most people know salt only as an additive to food and that eating too much salt is not healthy. But salt also performs beneficial functions in the body. Here you will read what role salt plays in the body and what the consequences are of eating too much salt.
The functions of salt
Salt is important for conduction nerve impulses. Signals from the brains that give commands to the rest of the body. Salt is also important for muscle contraction, keeping the fluid balance in your body and salt plays a role in regulating the blood pressure.
Too much salt
In principal we ingest more salt than we need. 75 Percent of salt that is consumed daily comes from processed foods. 15 Percent is added to food while cooking and only 10 percent comes from natural, unprocessed foods.
Salt is filtered in your body by the kidneys and is then returned to the blood stream. When you have too much salt in the body, the salt levels in the blood become higher. The fluid/salt ratio is then out of balance. This makes you thirsty, which causes you to drink more. The extra fluid restores the fluid/salt balance. Your kidneys transport the extra fluid with the salt out of the body.
High blood pressure
For many years it was thought that salt was the main cause of high blood pressure. People who are sensitive to salt do get a higher blood pressure immediately when they consume salt. Then, if you are sensitive to salt, by reducing the amount of salt that is consumed, the blood pressure is kept under control.
But in most people who suffer from high blood pressure, reducing the salt consumption doesn’t lead to a lower blood pressure. The most effective way to lower blood pressure is to lose weight.. This is because high blood pressure is mostly found in people who are overweight.
Too much salt can cause oedema next to high blood pressure. Oedema means that the fluids in your body are badly transported out of the body. The moisture accumulates then in certain places of the body. This can cause swellings, like in the ankles for example.
In general consuming too much salt is not a problem, as long as enough water is drunk next to it. Then the excess of salt can be transported out of the body. If you eat too much salt on a regular basis however, too much burden is placed on the kidneys and this in turn is not good for your heart. You can get cardiovascular problems because of it.
The best is not to eat more than 6 grams of salt daily. People with high blood pressure are recommended not to consume more than 2 grams of salt per day.
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