Salt is is known by its many varieties: Table, Kosher, sea… even pink! Despite its many iterations, the usage of salt is universal—it’s an important culinary ingredient that adds flavour and improves the taste of our food. However, an increased salt intake can also cause unwanted changes in your body and overall health.
Contrary to popular belief, a completely salt-free diet might not be a good thing. Composed of sodium and chloride, salt is a vital electrolyte the body needs. The sodium in salt, for example, maintains the body’s fluid balance, as well as muscle and nerve functions. Our kidneys regulate the sodium levels in our bodies by passing out any excess amount in the urine. We also lose sodium when we sweat.
Despite salt’s essential nature, an increased intake over prolonged periods of time may potentially lead to health problems. Too much sodium in the body is linked to increased blood pressure levels (in turn paving the way for other diseases), while too little may cause symptoms such as headaches and lethargy. To combat this, here are four ways you can regulate your salt intake.
Consume fresh over packaged meats
Packaged meats contain higher sodium levels as preservatives have been added to keep them fresh for longer. Processing of cured meats such as ham and bacon also contain higher levels of sodium. On the other hand, while fresh cuts of chicken, pork and beef do also naturally contain sodium, they are significantly lower compared to their processed counterparts. The next time you go grocery shopping, skip the frozen food aisle and hit the fresh meats section instead.
When at the grocery store, choose to include more fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet as they are very low in sodium. If you choose to buy frozen vegetables, pick those that are labeled “fresh frozen” and ensure that they do not contain any added seasoning or sauces.
Do your homework
One great way to monitor your salt intake is to study the nutrition labels carefully. The most obvious benefit of this method is that you’re now aware of how much salt you consume. Another good practice to have is to compare various labels of the same food product until you come across one with the lowest sodium content. When picking out spices and seasonings, opt for those that do not list sodium on their labels. For example, why not consider garlic powder as an alternative to garlic salt?
Prepare your own meals! Not only are you in total control of what you consume, you’re also able to adjust your sodium intake accordingly. If you’re thinking of eating out, doing a little research on Google goes a long way. After all, the nutritional values of some meals can be found online, which means you can stay informed about the food you eat.
Achieving a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle can be less daunting than you imagine. Click here to read more health tips on the WhiteCoat blog.