Salt consumption – the number 1 enemy of your heart and health!

Salt intake is one of the most important determinants of hypertension and increased cardiovascular risk worldwide. However, high salt intake can affect not only our heart but our whole body.

Let’s understand exactly what the effects of salt consumption are and how we can easily control how much salt we consume on a regular basis.

What effects does salt consumption have on your health?

To make a change in our diets, it is important to understand the dangers behind high salt intake.

Salt intake and hypertension

One of the most well-known effects of salt consumption is high blood pressure. Although a small amount of salt can help our kidneys control the amount of water in our blood, too much salt leads to a high amount of water in the blood, which leads to high blood pressure.

Many studies have shown the close link between salt and blood pressure. Even a decrease of 4.4g of salt per day results in a drop in blood pressure of up to 4.2/2.1 mmHg. This effect was observed in any group of participants in various studies, regardless of gender, ethnic group, age or blood pressure at baseline.

Salt consumption and cardiovascular disease

High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Studies on the effects of salt on the heart have shown that consuming up to 5 g of salt per day more than the recommended amount leads to a 17% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and up to a 23% higher risk of stroke.

Salt intake and type 2 diabetes

Salt doesn’t just affect our hearts. A recent study has shown that there is also a potential connection between salt and type 2 diabetes.

This study involved more than 400,000 UK adults whose health was monitored for 11.8 years (on average). Participants monitored their salt intake using the options “never”, “rarely”, “sometimes”, “usually” and “always”. People who used salt “sometimes”, “usually” and “always” had a 13%, 20% and 39% higher risk of diabetes respectively over that 11.8 year period.

The same study also found a link between salt consumption and high BMI and increased waist circumference – a symptom of metabolic syndrome.

Salt consumption and gastric cancer

Some studies have also shown that there is an association between salt consumption and an increased risk of stomach cancer. One possible cause is that high salt intake can destroy the gastric mucosa and cause inflammation that facilitates the formation of colonies of Helicobacter Pylori, a risk factor for gastric cancer.

How can we control our salt intake?

You can avoid the disastrous effects of salt as long as you keep your salt intake within the limits recommended by doctors, explained below:

How much salt is recommended daily depending on age?

Source: Salt and hypertension: current views

Which products contain a high amount of salt?

The most dangerous foods when it comes to high added salt content are:

  • Commercial chips and snacks
  • Cheese
  • Canned or packet soups
  • Pizza and foie gras
  • Processed meat
  • Commercial sauces (ketchup)

How do we know how much salt is in products in the shops?

Good news – you can easily avoid foods high in salt by checking the label in the shop. On the label you will generally find the amount of salt per 100g of product. You can use the following table to decide whether a food is too salty::

Low contentAverage contentHigh content – AVOID!
Salt0 – 0.3 g0.3 – 1.5 gOver 1.5 g
Sodium0 – 0.1 g0.1 g – 0.6 gOver 0.6 g

Which products contain a small amount of salt?

As an idea, the following foods generally contain a small amount of salt, and are a healthy alternative to the dangerous products mentioned above:

  • As snacks – fruit or vegetables, expanded rice, nuts without added salt
  • Instead of processed meat – chicken, tuna, coleslaw, tomatoes
  • Homemade soups, sauces and pizzas using healthy recipes such as those inspired by the Mediterranean diet

What can we replace salt in food with?

Many of us love salt because it makes our food taste good. Well, giving up salt doesn’t mean giving up tasty food and pleasure. You can use many other ingredients instead to improve the taste of the food as well:

  • Black pepper
  • Garlic
  • Paprika or chilli
  • Lemon or vinegar
  • Fresh or dried herbs (basil, rosemary, parsley)
  • Spices (nutmeg, turmeric)

For those looking to make a healthy change in their diet, reducing salt intake should be the first step. Dahna’s health and nutrition app can help you take control of your diet and live a healthy, carefree life. Download the app today and enjoy over 300 menus based on the Mediterranean diet, affordable and perfect for a healthy heart!

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