Salt is found everywhere in the food industry. Canned foods, breads, soups, bagged snack foods, tomato sauce, salsa, frozen dinners, dairy products, canned meats, and most packaged food products are just some examples. Even certain sports drinks and juices have high levels of added sodium. We add salt to so many things you may not realize. In the food industry, salt preserves foods and adds flavor. This helps to keep items on the market and provide them with a longer shelf life. Inside our bodies, salt enables proper metabolism, function of nerves and muscles, and maintains a steady fluid balance. You may know sodium as an electrolyte needed for intense physical activity. The tough part is finding just the right amount of sodium without overloading.
You might have noticed that sodium frequently appears on nutrition labels. In today’s society, we are consuming far more salt than we actually need. Healthy Americans should consume no more than 1500-2300 mg sodium daily, but many of us are consuming an average of 3400 mg sodium per day, nearly twice the amount we should have!
So if salt has all these important roles, how could it be bad for us? For one, excessive sodium in the body can cause water retention that may lead to bloating, swelling, or bursting of cells. High levels of sodium can also result in kidney problems or brittle bones. It may also cause issues with the central nervous system such as damaged nerves, vision difficulties, and cognitive issues. Probably the most common side effect from excess sodium is high blood pressure. This is a direct route to other health complications like heart disease, memory loss, fatigue, aneurysm, damaged vessels, stroke, or heart attack.
Keep in mind that we still need sodium to an extent in order for our bodies to work efficiently, but be sure not to overstep the boundaries. We can practice this by checking food labels, using the salt shaker sparingly, drinking enough fluids, and staying physically active to utilize the electrolytes we consume. If your goal is to decrease your blood pressure, it may be a good idea to stick with the lower limit of 1500 mg/d, while if your goal is to simply maintain a healthy body, then stick with the slightly higher limit of 2300 mg/d.