I'll be the first to say it. Salt is great. Makes things taste good, it helps us store food for longer periods of time, and is stupendous on a baked potato.
However… when you've had too much, salt is a demon on your body in all kinds of ways. And it's important that you know what you're doing to your body, especially in a situation where you don't have to have as much salt as you are likely taking in.
It is true that your body needs sodium to function properly. It helps your nerves talk to each other, influences muscle contraction, and it helps you keep body fluids at the right balance. For those under 50, it is recommended that you have less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Note that a teaspoon of table salt is 2,325 mg of sodium. (Less is recommended for those over 50 - about 1,500 mg/day)
So - even though it is important - you don't need much.
Because too much salt has effects all over.
On your blood pressure:
Salt causes your kidneys to hold on to more water, and the extra water raises your blood pressure (too much fluid in the pipes), and put strain on your kidneys, arteries, heart, and brain.
On fluid retention:
Sodium is an electrolyte. Electrolytes carry out the electrical impulses that control the functions of our body, and your body performs best when your electrolyte concentration is constant. When we have too much salt (the electrolyte), our thirst mechanism is triggered - causing us to drink more than normal.
When we've got too much water for our kidneys to handle, the water will move to areas with less salt - like our skin, making us look puffy and making it hard to take rings off fingers.
For Congestive Heart Failure Patients, reducing salt intake is very important. Because salt increases the amount of water your body holds on to, it puts more strain on your arteries and heart - not good for an already damaged heart.
Salt is essential to life, as we've already noted, but the amount of salt that Americans consume on a daily basis - 3,500 mg/day (that's 50% higher than what's necessary). And it's everywhere - not just what you add on top of that delicious baked potato - but it's in our foods as a preservative, in our drinks… sodium can be found just about anywhere.
It's actually simple: people who eat too much salt are asking for trouble. In our space here with UAB Medical West's Doc Blogs, we've stated before that too much stress on the heart is bad news.
If you're eating lots of salt, you're also likely eating bad foods - cheeseburgers and fries, pastas, heavy soups… where some is okay, but too much is no good. Salt plays a role in the effect it is having on your body and health.
And it's not an easy one to fix. You have to be smart - or at least conscious - of what you are eating and drinking.
Some good news is that if you recall, salt is actually an acquired taste - you didn't like it the first time you had it (when you were like 1 or so). If you can cut back to less salty foods, your taste buds will catch up with you and actually, salty foods will eventually taste waaaay too salty.
But try to move yourself over to the fruit instead of the fries next time you're at Chick-fil-A. Eggs and dairy products feature low salt levels.
Read your labels, too! Know what you are putting into your body!
Don't let your taste buds lead you down the wrong road. Get in control and pass on the salt.