Mar 27 2012

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Shaking the salt habit

By Caty Millburg-Nutrition Expert

            Salt has become a dirty word for many individuals recently, but how much do we really know about why sodium and salt have such a negative connotation?  Although many American diets consist of excess sodium intake, there is in fact a certain amount that our bodies need, and there is a way to avoid getting too much on a daily basis.  Chronic overuse of salt/sodium can have the potential to cause adverse side effects associated with all areas of the body.

Processed food contributes to approximately 75% of our daily consumption of salt.  It is not just the French fries and potato chips that causing an increased intake.  Fast food places such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s and even Subway pack their sandwiches with salt.  The average American consumes approximately 3,436mg of sodium per day according to the CDC.  This is way over the recommended upper tolerance level of 2,300mg/day for most individuals and 1,500mg/day for others.  For individuals who are 51 or older, or African American, or have diabetes, high blood pressure, or chronic kidney disease should not exceed 1,500mg/day.  This is equivalent to about 2/3 of a teaspoon.  In reality, our bodies only need about 500mg per day for normal function.

Salt can also have addictive qualities causing the body to continually crave and seek more to be satisfied.  The salt triggers the brain’s dopamine receptors causing that feel good response similar to the feeling people get after using various .

High blood pressure is not the only health concern that can be a result of excess sodium intake into the diet.  New studies are finding that it can contribute to certain types of cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia, sleep apnea, and kidney disease.  Salt can damage the inner lining of the stomach contributing to irritation and stomach cancer.  Sodium can contribute to bone demineralization and loss of calcium due to the higher acidic blood from sodium rich foods.  Excess sodium does not cause diabetes, but is problematic for individuals who already have diabetes because it further increases their already high potential for high blood pressure.  Sodium can also damage the arteries leading to the brain and contribute to dementia and sleep apnea because the brain cannot get enough oxygen with damaged arteries.  Kidney disease can result in chronic excess sodium consumption because the sodium can damage the kidneys filter system.

Although our hearts need a small amount of sodium to fully pump blood and contract, most American’s are way overdoing it.  The FDA can only control so much in the way of limiting restaurants and their sodium use.  It is our responsibility to start choosing foods with less sodium, watching our daily intake, and limiting all processed food.  For additional information on how you can improve your healthy eating habits, call (903)663-5900 or stop by BalanceDiet in the Longview Target Shopping Center and our experts would be happy to help.


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