We consume a lot of salt, with salt being a hidden ingredient in many foods we consume, such as cereals, bread, and condiments.
Salt provides some important benefits for the human body – it helps muscles contract and relax, and it regulates fluid in the kidneys to prevent dehydration.
The problem with salt is that consuming too much is bad for you.
How much salt should you consume every day?
You only need a small amount of salt every day – about 1,500mg – but on average people can eat double or more of that, which puts them at risk of health conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
Let’s explore why salt can be bad for you, how to flush salt out of your body, and what healthy habits you need to start following so that you reduce your salt intake.
Why Is Salt Unhealthy?
When you hear about salt’s reputation for being unhealthy, you’ll probably immediately think about how it raises blood pressure.
Salt has the effect of increasing your blood pressure because of how it causes your body to hold onto water, which increases the volume and pressure of blood in the arteries.
Salt has many other negative effects on the body.
- It has been linked to stomach cancer. Gastric, or stomach, cancer has been associated with the consumption of high-salt diets. For example, in a study of over 40,000 Japanese adults, those who reached for salty foods regularly had a 30 percent higher risk of developing gastric cancer as compared to people who ate less salty food.
- It makes you bloated. After eating salt, you might feel puffy or bloated, and it isn’t your imagination. This happens because your kidneys, which are trying to maintain a good balance of sodium and water, will hold onto extra water to compensate for the salt you consumed.
- It can cause hypernatremia. You might find that after eating a lot of salt you have intense thirst. You will want to drink water so that you maintain the correct salt-water ratio. If you don’t consume water after eating a lot of salt, this can cause your body’s level of sodium to increase above a safe level. This is known as hypernatremia, which is when water is released by the cells and enters the blood, and it can cause confusion, seizures, coma, and death.
Signs You’re Consuming Too Much Salt
If you need a sign that you’re adding too much salt to your diet, there are some important signs to look out for so you can cut back.
- Your stomach is bloated. If your waistband feels a bit tight after a heavy meal, you could be bloated. This is a common side effect of eating too much salt, as mentioned earlier. Bloating occurs as a way for your body to retain water to deal with the extra salt.
- Your blood pressure has increased. If you regularly monitor your blood pressure with a monitor at home and you see that it’s a bit high, this could be a sign that you’ve been eating too much salt. Having too much salt in your kidneys makes it difficult for them to eliminate fluid, which causes your blood pressure to increase.
- You’re very thirsty. This could be linked to a high amount of salt consumption, as mentioned earlier. Eating too much salt makes you dehydrate, which is when your body draws water from your cells.
- You’ve put on weight. If you’ve put on weight in a short amount of time, this could be because your body is retaining water from eating too much salt.
- You feel weaker than usual. When you have too much salt in your blood, this causes water to leave your cells in order to dilute the salt, but this can cause you to feel weak.
How To Flush Salt Out Of Your Body
If you’ve eaten salt-rich foods and you feel bloated or otherwise unwell, you will want to try to flush the salt out of your body.
This is important because it prevents you from holding onto fluids and it keeps high blood pressure at bay. There are various ways in which you can flush salt out of your body.
Drinking water will help to remove extra salt from your body. It’s not always easy to drink enough water, so you can increase your water intake by reaching for water-rich foods, such as cucumbers, celery, and lettuce.
Generally, adults require eight to 12 cups of water every day, so if you’ve overdone it with too much salty food you need to eliminate the excess sodium by drinking more than that.
Eat potassium-rich foods
Potassium prevents high blood pressure because it reduces the effects of salt on the body. Basically, sodium and potassium work together in the body to maintain the correct balance of fluids.
When you ingest more potassium, this helps your body to flush out more sodium. Foods that have potassium include avocados, bananas, and potatoes.
When you boost your physical activity, this helps your body to eliminate excess sodium. This is because it releases water and salt. Just make sure you drink water and stay hydrated when working out so that you don’t lose too many fluids.
Note that while you might think reaching for a sports drink will help you stay hydrated during a workout, this is not recommended if you’re trying to eliminate salt from your body.
Sports drinks usually contain a lot of salt. You should only drink sports drinks if you’re working out for an hour or longer.
How To Reduce Your Salt Intake
If you’re worried about how much salt you’re consuming in your daily diet, there are ways to cut back. Here are some simple tips you can start following.
- When grocery shopping, aim to fill about 40 percent of your trolley with healthy fruits and vegetables. These don’t contain sodium and are filled with healthy nutrients.
- Start using spices and herbs instead of salt when seasoning your food.
- Avoid eating processed meats, like canned corned beef, ham, sausages, and bacon. These usually contain high amounts of salt. Replace them with healthier sources of protein, such as chicken and tuna.
- Check food labels. If a food is labeled “sodium free,” this means it contains less than 5 mg of salt per serving, “very low sodium” means that it has less than 35 mg per serving, while “low sodium” means it has less than 140 mg.
- When you purchase prepared meals you need to ensure they have less than 600 mg of sodium, which is the upper limit of what’s considered healthy according to the FDA.
- Add one pinch of salt to foods you’re cooking instead of a teaspoon, even if the recipe calls for that amount. Add salt at the end of the cooking process so that you get a stronger taste of it and don’t put in too much.
- When opening canned beans, drain and rinse their contents. This can help you to eliminate their sodium content by about 40 percent.
- When eating out at restaurants, ask for no extra salt to be added to your meals.
- Another tip when eating out is to avoid foods that are cured, brined, pickled, barbecued, or smoked, or have soy sauce, miso, or teriyaki sauce in them as these are high in sodium. By comparison, foods that are baked, steamed, poached, and grilled have less sodium.
Can you die of a salt overdose?
It’s rare to die of a salt overdose as this requires you to consume 0.2-0.5 grams of salt per pound of body weight.
Can you eat too little sodium?
While it’s said we should consume around 1,500mg of salt per day, there’s no evidence that eating less is a risk for your health. This is because your body only requires a small amount of salt to function.
While salt is healthy for you in small amounts, you have to ensure you only consume a little bit of it every day.
If you eat too much salt, you put yourself at risk of health conditions such as blood pressure.
In this article, we’ve featured what you need to know about reducing your salt intake, whether you’re cooking at home, buying food from the grocery store, or dining out at restaurants.