For centuries, salt has been an essential part of the human diet, adding flavour to food and improving its shelf life. But modern research begs the question: can we really do without this familiar product? The myths and realities surrounding this topic deserve a closer look.
The role of salt in the body
Table salt is made up of sodium (Na+) and chlorine (Cl-) ions, which play an important role in maintaining vital body functions. Sodium ions maintain the membrane potential of cells, help conduct nerve impulses and are involved in muscle contraction. Chloride ions are necessary for the production of hydrochloric acid, an important component of gastric juice that aids in the initial stages of digestion.
Salt in food
Salt is not only found in foods that we deliberately add salt to before eating, but also in many natural ingredients such as meat, fish, eggs, vegetables (such as celery) and root vegetables (such as beetroot). This means that even if you try to limit your salt intake, you will still get it in small amounts from a variety of sources.
The harms of excess salt
According to the World Health Organisation, the recommended amount of salt for an adult is no more than 5 grams per day. This is about one teaspoon of salt. However, modern research suggests that most people consume far more salt than is necessary to maintain good health. Excessive salt intake has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke and even certain types of cancer. Excessive salt intake can also lead to oedema, affect kidney function, contribute to bone health and increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Can you avoid salt altogether?
It is possible to avoid salt, but this requires careful meal planning and consideration of sodium intake from other sources. Many natural foods, such as fruit, vegetables, dairy products and meat, contain small amounts of sodium that are sufficient to keep the body functioning properly. In addition, alternatives to salt, such as spices and herbs, can be used to add flavour to dishes.
The question of whether it is possible to avoid salt altogether is ambiguous. On the one hand, salt is an integral part of the diet and is necessary for the normal functioning of the body. On the other hand, excessive salt intake can have negative consequences, especially for those at risk of developing high blood pressure.
As always, the key to a healthy lifestyle is moderation. It is advisable to monitor your salt intake, avoid excessive consumption of salty foods and eat a balanced diet. It is important to know that natural sources of salt, such as vegetables and lean proteins, can also provide the body with essential minerals.
In general, the choice of salt intake is an individual one, best made in consultation with a doctor or dietician, taking into account each person’s health and lifestyle.
Prepared by Mary Clair