We all like our food to be tasty and not too bland, but it could be that our salt consumption is too high and reducing the amount of salt we consume is an easy way to prevent and protect us from hypertension and of course, high blood pressure.
Who are most at risk?
Black people in particular are more prone to this problem and this is reflected in US figures from 1999-2004, which show that adult blacks in the United States have the highest age-adjusted rates of high blood pressure prevalence at 39,1%, compared to 28,5% in whites and 27,8% in Mexicans.
Adult blacks are also prone to developing high blood pressure at a younger age, to suffer from more elevated blood pressure levels if they do develop it, and to experience more damage and cardiovascular events as a result.
Numerous studies have linked excessive salt consumption to high blood pressure
Of course our bodies need salt, particularly because the kidneys use the mineral to control the amount of water in the body and to ensure our blood’s normal pH is maintained. The kidneys also regulate the amount of salt in our bodies by excreting the excess in our urine. But if our salt intake is too high, the kidneys cannot keep up and the excess builds up in our bloodstream. In addition, salt retains or attracts water and so, the more of it there is in our blood, the more water is retained as well, increasing the volume of fluid being pumped around the body so more pressure is needed to push it.
How much salt is advisable?
You only need 69 mg of sodium per day (1g of salt contains 0,4g sodium). Even though a teaspoon of salt contains considerably more - about 2 300 mg - dietitians say that it is an okay amount for people with normal blood pressure to consume daily but if you have or are at risk of high blood pressure, you should limit the sodium in your diet to 1 500 mg per day.
The right type of salt
Regular table salt is not the recommended salt to use as it is processed to temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees, significantly altering its chemical structure. Many sea salts are also processed this way. If the salt is white and flows smoothly, then you can be almost sure that the salt is processed. Celtic sea salt is thought to be the best salt but the alternative under the brand name REAL SALT (from the mines in Utah) is clearly not processed, is less expensive and tastes better.
Most of the salt we consume doesn't come from our salt shaker but from what is already ‘hidden’ in our food. And that salt will definitely be processed. The food industry uses salt to make food taste better and last longer. So you can take it that the more processed the food, the more salt it is likely to contain. For example "take outs", convenience foods and canned foods all tend to have high levels of salt along with savory snacks, sweets, breads, cereals, processed meats, sugar, milk and shellfish. Get into the habit of reading labels and you will begin to notice how often and how much salt/sodium is included in processed foods. Try not to cook with salt or add it to your meal at the table. Use an alternative seasoning instead but be aware that condiments and sauces such as ketchup, mayonnaise, soy sauce and mustard, will also contain salt.
It is safer and healthier to include as many non processed, fresh, natural and organic foods in your diet such as fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, pasta, raw and unsalted nuts as well as organic and free range meat, poultry and eggs. Limit cured foods, such as bacon and ham and foods that are packed in brine. After opening, rinse canned foods, such as tuna or beans, to remove some of the sodium. Flavoring options to use in food instead of salt include lemon juice, herbs, spices, chili, onions and pepper.
Some people are especially “salt sensitive” and will experience an almost immediate elevation in blood pressure after eating salty foods and are at higher risk of high blood pressure. The numbers of “salt sensitive” could be as high as 1 in 4.