Summer is here and that means heat and humidity, and heat and humidity means we are going to sweat. Sweating is the body’s way of cooling off, but with that sweat you lose salt, an electrolyte that needs to be replenished, because the body cannot manufacture this element on its own.
Salt is basically sodium chloride-two essential minerals required by the body that helps communication between cells, and the regulation of fluid in our bodies. Salt is naturally occurring-in any form, from Epsom salts to kosher, and is found in the sea and in minerals. Salt helps regulate blood volume and blood pressure. The relationship between salt and blood pressure can be traced back nearly 4000 years to the Chinese emperor Huang Ti, who wrote of the connections between salt and a “hardened pulse.”
As of today, the dietary guidelines for salt intake are 2300 milligrams per day. The typical American diet ranges from 3000 to 5000 milligrams. For our bodies to survive, we need about 500 milligrams. A teaspoon of salt is about 2400 milligrams.
The salt shaker on the table is NOT the smoking gun. The danger is in the convenience and frozen packages, and in fast food.
I recently did some research in the grocery store, going through the freezer section and stayed exclusively with what we use to call TV dinners. I looked at the nutrition labels from about 8 or 9 of the big brand name labels and was shocked to see that the sodium in each serving was giving us anywhere from 28% to 45% of the daily allowance of sodium we need per day. In one meal! Now think back on what you had for breakfast, lunch, possibly those snacks in between, and dessert and a late night snack you may eat after dinner. We are exceeding our daily sodium intake by nearly 200%
Here are a few tips to lowering our salt intake:
-Be more concerned with the ratio of salt to potassium than the actual amount of salt in your diet.
-Do not try to eliminate salt from your diet-it is essential to the body-instead, try to reduce the excessive intake by eating whole, unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, and whole grain breads without the butter.
-Drink plenty of water after you exercise, perspiring drains the salt out of your body, and needs to be replenished.
-When cooking, use herbs and spices instead of the salt shaker. There are many good seasoning blends in the spice aisle of you grocery store. Low sodium broths are also a good way to poach foods in order to give them better flavor.
-Whenever you buy canned foods such as beans or vegetables, always drain and rinse them well in a sieve, because they are soaking in brine that is loaded with salt.
We also like to dine out more than ever. Be alert on the cooking styles of the chefs and ask your server how the foods are prepared. Avoid anything pickled, cured or smoked. Order your salad dressing on the side instead of mixed in. Avoid the ketchup, mustard and pickles, or at least cut down the amount you use. Opt for fruit instead of those salty appetizers.
Keeping in mind that we need salt, but not an excessive amount, and an insufficient amount can be detrimental to our health as well. So drink plenty of fluids, watch your diet and prepare food wisely by limiting the amount of salt in recipes.