Monday, 6 September 2010

Salt

A recent item on our local news advised that a British group is endeavouring to have the amount of salt in food reduced. The question is why, why do manufacturers add salt? The answer to that is, because it improves the taste; it tastes good. Why does it taste good? Because our bodies need salt, salt is an important ingredient to a functioning healthy body.

When I was still a young man and living with my parents (over 50 years ago) my Mother read an article that said salt was not good and so she reduced our salt intake. This was fine until I came home ill one day suffering severe cramps and vomiting and even passing out several times. My parents rushed me to the doctor who looked me over and told my parents to go over the road to the Chemist shop and buy me some salt tablets, on taking two my condition improved rapidly. Salt is necessary for the body to retain fluid and not become dehydrated, which is why we provide salt lick for livestock.

Salt is so essential that in ancient times the Romans paid their soldiers in salt, which is where the saying, “worth his salt” originated. “Salt of the Earth” is another expression that reflects the importance of our daily salt and even the word salary derives from the Latin word for salt.

There is no denying that excessive salt can cause hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and lead to heart attacks and other problems. Babies should not have added salt because it can retard brain development, but healthy active people must have salt. The amount of salt one’s body requires depends on many factors, size, weight, activity and most importantly the climate where you live. The level of salt required by a sedentary Britain would be far less than that required by an active Australian. All these factors need to be considered when assessing our salt intake, like carbohydrates the intake required depends on your age and level of activity. If your salt intake from prepared foods is too high then you should not be eating so much because if you are absorbing too much salt you are also acquiring too many carbohydrates so will also be overweight or at risk of being over weight.

In all cases what you are consuming is not the real problem, as with weight the salt problem is exacerbated by lack of exercise. The amount of salt in food is not the problem, if there were too much the food would not taste good; too little and the food tastes bland. The level of salt required is the level at which the food tastes nice, if you get too much salt from it then you have simply eaten too much.


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