By Anselm Anyoha Salty food is tasty. It can make us lick all our fingers in the same manner as a greedy dog licks out his bowl.
Stores sell both iodized and iodine-free salts. 'Iodized salt' refers to salts that contain iodine. Unless one has a sensitivity to iodine, I see no reason why anyone would choose iodine-free salt over iodized salt; iodine is necessary to our health in small doses.
Sodium and chloride make up the primary chemical composition of salt. About two-fifths or 40 percent of salt is sodium.
Both sodium and iodine have roles to play in the body. Nonetheless, people who have the habit of eating very salty food risk many serious medical ailments, such as high blood pressure and strokes.
Lack of awareness of the sodium content of tasty food, drinks or snacks is partly to blame for people's high salt consumption. An average American consumes five to ten times the amount of sodium necessary.
My eyes widened when I found out the amount of sodium in my favorite cheese, a realization which made me switch to a low sodium brand. I hope readers will do the same. Look up the sodium content of your favorite food and snacks, salad dressings, bread and bagels, and consider switching to a safer alternative.
Sodium balance, high blood pressure and ageing
Humans have about 100 grams of sodium in their body, most of them flowing in the blood mix. The body always strives for a range of sodium blood equilibrium, the excess sodium we don't need being evacuated through urination, sweating or bowel movement. On the other hand, when the body is short in sodium it absorbs more through the kidneys.
Eating salty food for a long time, however, can overwhelm the ability of the body to maintain such a balance. Furthermore, with ageing, when physical activity levels decline and the kidney filters become blunter than an old kitchen knife, the body retains more sodium.
Lots of sodium in the blood soaks up body water, creating a sodium-waterlogged blood, distension of blood vessels and high blood pressure.
Food industries - and what I found in my fridge
Profit is what motivates the food industries. The corner store that flips the hot dogs, the coffee outlets that ask if you want breakfast, and the chefs behind your favorite restaurants: none of them care about your wellness and wellbeing. Salt sells their merchandise and salt is what you get.
Even dieters and weight watchers get fooled by how much salt they consume. I woke one morning with a mission: to hunt for sodium in the fridge. A glass bottle of sauce on the side rail contained 520 mg of sodium per tablespoon. To the right of the glass bottle, a plastic container of ranch yogurt salad dressing has 280 mg of sodium in two tablespoons, and the tomato paste next to the ranch yogurt has 160 mg of sodium in one tablespoon. As you can see, sodium intake adds up very quickly.
Sodium exists in many natural foods. Get your sodium from natural sources such as apples, berries, vegetables, eggs, milk, herbs, seafood and many more.
Like sodium, iodine occurs in natural food. Sources of iodine include kelp, seaweed, milk, eggs, fish, yogurt, shrimps, beans, and fruit or vegetables which grew in iodine-rich soil.
How much salt do we need?
Sodium is not all bad. It helps keep blood flowing through the arteries and veins. Another way sodium helps is to facilitate the entry of molecules such as glucose across the cell wall into the cytoplasm.
Half a teaspoon of iodized salt, containing 1163 milligram of sodium and 200 micrograms of iodine, is enough to provide most people with their daily sodium and iodine needs. Individuals with high blood pressure, or impaired liver, kidneys or heart, may need to limit their sodium intake even further.
Coupling iodine with salt is a convenient way to help people get their iodine requirement. The thyroid gland, located on the sides of the neck, needs iodine to produce thyroxin, an important body hormone. Mental impairment, weight gain, and goiter are some of the signs of a poorly functioning thyroid gland, which can be due to iodine deficiency.
11 tips to stop the sodium onslaught
• Check the table salt in your kitchen today. Does it say iodized salt?
• Notice the sodium content of the foods and snacks you eat and the seasonings you add to your meals.
• Cook your own food, and ask no salt in the food you eat out.
• Half a teaspoon of iodized salt is enough to provide us with our daily sodium and iodine requirements.
• Natural foods are better alternative sources of sodium and salt
• Ask for salt-free or low salt at shops.
• Know the sodium content of anything you toss into your pot or plate.
• Read all food labels, especially packaged and processed food.
• Take your blood pressure at least once every year, and more frequently if you suffer from high blood pressure.
• Don't rely on taste; do an online check for the sodium content of your favorite food, snacks, and seasonings.
• Diarrhea, profuse sweating, and use of certain diuretics may necessitate a higher salt intake.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Information provided is based solely on the author's experience and understanding. Readers must seek advice from their own clinicians and nutritionists.