Salt - Healthy Eating, Friend or Foe?
Salt is often considered the baddie when it comes to healthy eating - but is it really as simple as that? Making sure there’s some salt in the diet is actually beneficial - and there is such a thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ salt, too.
Salt makes the body hold onto water, and that can cause weight gain and increase blood pressure – at least until the kidneys flush the salt out of the system. But it is believed that the effect is actually more long-lasting, and can lead to hypertension, stroke and even death if unchecked. However, the sodium in salt is an essential electrolyte, being critical for many bodily functions such as nerve transmission and muscular contraction. Slashing sodium (salt) intake too much can also cause hypertension, as well as increase the risk of heart failure and type-II diabetes.
Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy balance of salt in your diet:
1) Unrefined varieties of salt, such as sea salt and Himalayan pink salt, are known for being healthier seasoning options. These salts also contain various trace nutrients which are essential during summer when electrolytes and other minerals lost through sweat need replenishing.
2) Experiment with other ways of seasoning your food. Pepper is great for seasoning chips or a bowl of soup, and lemon imitates the acidic bite of salt when squeezed over fish. Capers are wonderfully salty too, but all-natural and full of protein and goodness.
3) Processed foods are absolutely packed full of salt – far more than is healthy. Eat ‘real food’ whenever you can and look at the sodium levels on packets before you purchase. Ditching convenience food for fresh meals means giving up all those nasty additives and preservatives, lowering your fat and sugar intake and burning more calories, since processed foods digest more rapidly than whole foods.
4) Cured meats, cheeses, pickled foods like gherkins and capers and salted nuts are all good ways to get some sodium into your diet, though keep your eye on specific salt amounts - especially with foods where salt is added, like peanuts.
Regulating your sodium intake is all about creating a balance and being aware of what you are eating. Having fun with your food and trying new things is another way to broaden your repertoire and cut down on added salt. Don’t banish salt completely, but choose healthier salt options, avoid ready meals and regulate your intake.