Summer has just arrived in our lovely country. The sun and warmth take hold of the corners of our mouths and move them at least one centimeter closer to the cheekbone. But the heat also takes its toll on the rest of our bodies in one way or another. Beneath the sun’s rays, it is important to think a little extra about our fluid intake — that we know. And maybe you have also heard that it can be good to compensate for the salt we sweat out, but what role, exactly, does salt play in how the body functions and how much salt do our bodies need? Can we consume too much salt and what are the consequences?
Regular salt that we use to season our food primarily consists of two minerals: sodium and chlorine. Both of these are vital for our bodies and are involved in the regulation of our bodies’ fluid balance.
Almost all sodium, as this post will mainly focus on, that we consume is absorbed in the body. What, however, comes out of the body later via urine and sweat is different depending on an individual’s fluid and sodium intake. If you have drank too little water, or alternatively eaten too much salt, the concentration of sodium in the body fluid will increase. When this happens the body reacts by spurring the hormones that tell it to conserve all fluids, placing the body in “savings mode” where the blood volume gradually increases. The amount of sodium in the blood works like a warning signal. If you later drink water, the body works intelligently, stopping the hormones so the water continues on its normal path through the body to be expelled in the urine. But where does the sodium go? Some of the sodium is expelled in the urine, exactly like all other nutrients, but a large amount of sodium is reabsorbed in the body after passing through the kidneys, remaining there until the body has time to process and dispose of any excess salt. Here’s where we can really discuss salt intake and its consequences.
As with a lot of other things within the field of nutrition, there are two sides to every coin. There are those that say that there are clear connections between salt intake and the risk for high blood pressure, and then there are those that reject these theories, asserting that there no longer is a clear connection to establish. But well-known is the fact that high blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. The question is whether it’s worth risking that? According to the World Cancer Research Fund & American Institute for Cancer research that conducted a comprehensive study about nutrition and cancer prevention, the presumed evidence (to a relatively high degree of proof) showed a connection between salt intake and stomach cancer—also not worth the risk for a little pinch of salt?
Regardless of which position you chose, most agree that it is, as of yet, impossible to single out salt as the only culprit in the blood pressure drama. The current Swedish recommendation for salt intake is 5-6 grams per day, the equivalent of 2.2 grams of sodium. Instead Swedes eat around double that: 10-12 grams of salt per day. The recommended daily allowance of 5-6 grams includes all the salt that we eat, not just the salt we ourselves put on the food, but also the salt that is hidden in products, making it a little trickier.
Things to consider:
Rule of thumb: 1.25 grams of salt per 100 grams of food = A LOT!
Salt villains (or heroes) in addition to our beloved table salt:
- Salting food without tasting it first
- Fully or semi-processed foods
- Cured meats like sausage, ham and bacon
- Pickled herring and Baltic herring
- Pizza and other ready-cooked meals
- Snacks like chips, peanuts
- Canned goods
Chose to reduce salt consumption to a grain of salt or chose to take this with a grain of salt.
/Lovisa Nilsson, Diet Expert