Excessive consumption of salt causes excessive thirst, anemia, acidity, reduces absorption of calcium from food causing osteoporosis and affects eye sight. It also raises bile secretion level, raises density of blood and decreases our vitality. It causes increase in blood pressure which in turn leads to heart diseases, paralysis and strokes.
It has been genetically established that Indians are more prone to obesity, heart diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes, when compared to other nationalities. And all this is usually attributed to our habit of taking more sweets and salty foods. Sweets are almost a necessary part of our diet, and no meal is complete without a sweet added to it. But few people are aware that excessive salt consumption is equally, if not more, dangerous for our health. Here too, Indians score heavily over others, because our food usually contains such high salt products such as pickles (Achar), Pappads, Chutneys, etc. In between our main meals, many people consume lot of salty snacks like samosa, kachori, dal bhujia, namkeens, golgappas (Pam puree), dahi wada and what not? We all know, of course, that people suffering from high blood pressure should avoid salt, but beyond that we are very little aware of how much salt we should consume and that high salt diet can lead to serious health consequences.
How Much Salt We Should Consume?
An individual should consume not more than 2300 mgs of salt per day. i.e. one level teaspoon of salt. According to surveys, Americans consume 3700 mg of salt per day, 50 percent more that the prescribed limit. No such survey has been done in India but our dietary habits indicate that we are perhaps the maximum users of dietary salt in the world and our consumption of salt could be more than double the prescribed limit. Some people eat too much pickles, they eat pickles as a substitute to vegetables. Many people regularly use salty choornas like hajmola, salted saunf, salted harar etc. after food, as a digestive without realising the harmful effect of these things.
Before we proceed further, we may note some of the harmful effects of use of excessive salt.
- It reduces iron in the blood.
- It creates acidity in the stomach.
- It causes false hunger and
- It causes dryness, as well as, increases water retention in the body.
Because of these properties it causes excessive thirst, anaemia, acidity, reduces absorption of calcium from food causing osteoporosis and affects eye sight.
Excessive consumption of salt raises our bile secretion level, raises density of blood and decreases our vitality. Increase in Pitta (Bile) leads to many skin problems. It causes dryness of facial skin, dries up lips, sometimes leading to sore lips and further bleeding. Hence, people suffering from skin diseases are always advised to take less salt.
The most well-known effect of high salt intake is increase in blood pressure, which in turn leads to various serious diseases like Heart disease, paralysis and strokes. People suffering from diabetes are advised to shun sweets of all kinds (i.e. glucose, sucrose and fructose), whereby they get into the habit of eating more salty snacks without realising that it leads to rise blood pressure. Excessive salt intake raises the water retention in the body. It also leads to arteriosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of blood vessels) and increases the work load of pumping activity to the heart. This leads to all-round increase in pressure on the circulatory system causing increase in blood pressure and heart diseases.
High intake of salt damages the digestive system also; it can lead to ulcers and cancer. According to a U.S. study, presented at the American Society for Microbiology Conference, salt and Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) bacterium interact to cause ulcers in the stomach and duodenum. H.pylori bacteria account for 80 to 90% of all duodenal and gastric ulcers. Many people carry these bacteria in their stomach without any symptoms, but when these bactena interact with excessive salt, they cause gastric ulcers. Excessive salt consumption also reduces PEPSIN, a digestive enzyme in the stomach drastically, thus adversely affecting the digestive system. It causes loose stools, increases acidity levels. For example, if you add salt to curd or lassi, it leads to fermentation in the stomach, forming acids in the stomach and hampering digestion. It is advisable to add jaggery to curd rather than salt or take curd without salt. Excessive salt intake affects the hair, causing grey hair and loss of hair, leading to alopecia.
The problem really is that usually we are not even aware that we are eating excess salt. People are now increasingly resorting to fast food, junk food and processed foods. All processed foods like potato chips, pre-cooked food, canned food, preserved foods like pickles, potato chips, sauces, canned fruits and vegetables are excessively salted and for preservation and attraction have chemicals and artificial colours. Fast food and junk food are even worse, as they contain not only excessive salt and fats, but they are cooked in trans fats, which when heated are carcinogenic in nature.
Therefore, if you want to remain healthy, use as little salt as possible.
How To Reduce Salt In Diet?
- Do not add salt to salads/fruits/ fruit juices, as all fruits and vegetables have some natural sodium content
- Consume as little as possible or even avoid salty snacks. The real problem is that salty snacks are often tasty and as such we tend to over consume them. We go on eating them till the plate is empty. Hence, children too are hooked to potato chips. The worst factor is that these snacks are generally fried in trans fats which are most dangerous to our health.
- Do not take pickle’s, sauces etc very often, use sparingly.
- Remove salt cellars on your dining table and resist the temptation to add extra salt to your food.
- Avoid processed foods. Always eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Do not add salt to curd.
- Do not eat salted groundnuts. Always remember that your daily intake of salt, in any form should NEVER exceed 2300 mgs and that excess salt will upset the fine balance between sodium, phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron and other minerals in the blood causing serious diseases.
Salt is of two kinds :- The common salt sold in the market which is obtained after refining sea water with chemicals and other is Rock salt called as SENDHA NAMAK. Use of common salt should be avoided by replacing it with rock salt. Minimum use of rock salt is more useful as it contains more potassium than sodium, which is obtained from salt mines.