Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten
australiaphen375.com

Sodium

It's not surprising that salt was used as money in many cultures as without it humans can not survive. Sodium is indeed one of the absolutely essential minerals and its main function is to keep a constant level of water in the body tissues and to control the balance between acid and alkali. Sodium also plays a key role in muscle function and enabling each individual cell to absorb other essential nutrients.

Sodium occurs naturally in many foods and it's virtually impossible to be deficient in this mineral and supplements containing sodium are only required in extreme situations and should only be taken on medical advice. The major problem with sodium is that almost everyone in the UK consumes far too much, most of which comes in the form of sodium chloride - salt.

Sodium is the one example of essential nutrient which almost everyone should try to get less of rather than more. Your body needs one gram of salt a day. The recommended safe daily amount is a maximum of 5 grams. The average consumption per head per day in the United Kingdom is 12 grams - a staggering amount which is killing 100,000 people every year. According to Professor Graham MacGregor of CASH - Consensus Action on Salt and Hypertension - halving our salt intake would save most of them.

Many children already eat more salt a day than the safe amount for adults and four year old children are already showing changes in their veins and arteries similar to those found in the early stages of high blood pressure. Many of the high salt foods are aimed at the children's market - even cornflakes contain as much salt as a bowl of seawater - but avoiding the salt is not so easy. Many labels list sodium content rather than salt but you can convert this number into grams of salt if you multiply by 2.5. As a rule of thumb more than 0.5 grams of sodium per serving or per 100 grams is high in salt and should be avoided.

With the recent heatwave people seem to think they should be taking extra salt to compensate for the sweating - don't. Athletes used to be told that it was salt loss through sweating that caused cramp but mostly it's caused by potassium deficiency so eat a banana before you exercise for extra potassium. Salt loss may be a problem for endurance athletes but dehydration is much more serious than losing a bit of salt. Recreational exercisers seldom drink enough water and although serious sodium deficiency can cause cramp, headaches, swelling of the hands and feet and mental confusion, the symptoms are pretty obvious. Anyone already on a very low salt diet for medical reasons should consult their doctor before increasing their salt consumption.


WORST SOURCES

Unlike the previous tables this one shows you which foods to avoid - the higher the score, the higher the salt content. Use less convenience food, don't add salt when you cook and always read the labels.

BACON SANDWICH
3.3 g per portion
66% of safe daily amount
7/10

SUPERMARKET CANNELONI
4 g per portion
80% of safe daily amount
8/10

SUPERMARKET LASAGNE
4.4 g per portion
88% of safe daily amount
9/10

SMALL BAG of SALT & VINEGAR CRISPS
All crisps have a high salt content and eating two or three bags a day is not unusual
1.3 g per small bag
26% of safe daily amount
3/10

DRY ROASTED PEANUTS
1.4 g per portion
28% of safe daily amount
3/10

INSTANT SOUPS
3 g per portion
60% of safe daily amount
6/10

CHICKEN TIKKA SAUCE
These add-on sauces are in addition to the salt already in the recipe
3.3 g per portion
66% of safe daily amount
7/10

FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST IN THE GREASY SPOON
6 g per portion
120% of safe daily amount
10/10

 

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