Is salt healthy?

Salt is vital to our body because without salt, certain body functions can not be sustained. However, we should not take too much salt - this is especially true for people with high blood pressure or kidney problems. Otherwise they can cause health problems. We reveal the role of salt in the body, whether it involves risks and how much salt should be consumed daily as part of a healthy diet.

What is salt?

Common salt consists - as the chemical name sodium chloride already suggests - almost exclusively of the two minerals chlorine and sodium. In addition, small amounts of other minerals are often included: for example, salts may also have traces of calcium or magnesium.

Most cooking salts today are enriched with iodine to ensure the iodine supply to the population. The trace element is important for the thyroid, because without iodine it could not produce its vital hormones. In addition to iodine, some table salts also contain fluoride.

Salt is vital

The salt contained in the salt has a variety of functions in the body: For example, it is important for the tissue tension (osmotic pressure) and thus influences the fluid and nutrient balance of the body.

In addition, sodium plays a role:

  • during bone formation
  • in stimulus transmission
  • in muscle relaxation

Salt as a health risk?

For many years, a high-salt diet was considered a risk factor for the development of hypertension. But whether this really is so, is today controversial among scientists. Recent studies indicate that even very high salt intake only minimally increases blood pressure. On the other hand, a low-salt diet should only be able to lower the blood pressure to a minimum.

However, in certain conditions, such as high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver or impaired kidney function, it is important to keep salt intake low. Otherwise, cardiovascular problems or - in case of renal impairment - edema may occur. Even healthy people should not overdo it, the best way to find a good middle ground.

In fact, too little salt does not seem to be good either. A Belgian study suggests that too little salt intake can lead to health problems. According to the researchers, people who have low urinary salt content are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. But even this study result is controversial.

How much salt is healthy?

To be on the safe side, choose the golden mean: not too much, but not too little salt. There are no uniform guidelines for salt consumption. However, adolescents and adults are generally advised to take in between five and six grams of salt each day.

In Germany, however, salt consumption is sometimes significantly higher than the recommended requirement. For example, men consume around 8.8 grams of salt per day and women 6.3 grams per day. The difference between the sexes is probably explained by the fact that women consume heavily salted products such as sausages or meat in smaller quantities.

5 facts about salt - © istockphoto, Vasilyevalara

Salt in food

The high salt intake is caused in particular by hidden salts in food. Often we do not even notice that we eat something salted. About 85 percent of salt consumption takes place this way. The salting at the table, on the other hand, usually hardly matters.

Larger amounts of salt are included, for example, in sausages and meat, but also in certain cheeses. Likewise, bread and other baked goods as well as dairy products contain larger quantities of salt. Extremely salty are usually also finished products, especially food in tin cans.

This will help you reduce your salt intake

So that you do not lose sight of your salt intake, you should always cook fresh and preferably use no finished products. From time to time, make sure to use low-salt foods such as potatoes, pasta, rice, oatmeal, fruit, fresh or frozen vegetables, and skimmed quark and yoghurt.

In addition, the following tips can help you to avoid too much salt:

  • Take a lot of herbal and only a few animal foods.
  • Season first with fresh herbs, then with salt.
  • Season only after cooking.
  • Prefer water-saving cooking methods. Because the taste of the food is best preserved and you need less salt.
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