What Is That Extra Helping Of Salt Doing To Your Health?

  • 7 mins read
  • Nutrition
  • Written by: Jillian Lai Mei Siew
excess salt consumption

How many times have we caught ourselves craving French fries, potato chips, or snacks from across the street? An endless number of times, right? We’re all guilty of indulging in mindless snacking when stressed or bored.

But while all of us love gorging on these salt-laden easy bites, what is it that makes them so appealing? The answer lies in our brain responding to the salty taste positively, considering sodium chloride is essential for our bodies to function. However, the next time you reach out for that packet of chips, stop! Have you ever spared a thought of the effects of excess sodium in the body? Allow us to tell you.

Dangers of consuming too much salt

Research has shown that increased salt intake affects the digestion and absorption of proteins from the intestines; it also negatively affects the gut microbiota by disrupting it. No matter what the reason for excess salt consumption, may be out of habit or unknowingly. We need to gear up and watch out for that excess salt lurking in our food.

Here’s how our daily salt eating habits affect our bodies without us noticing!

Feeling dehydrated

It happens many times that we forget to drink water and realize it only after we are completely parched. Eating heavily salted foods tends to increase sodium in our blood, this is called hypernatremia. That sounds like a big word but it just means having too much salt in your blood. During this time, the kidneys tend to pull water from the body’s cells leaving them shrivelled. Our body needs water and salt to function, if either of the two falls short, the body will experience severe stress. This leads to all the organ systems taking a big hit. So, sip on that H2O throughout the day and stay hydrated.

Constipation trouble

To solve this problem of constipation, it is important to understand its cause. Our intestines are brimming with microorganisms that are our friends. These tiny good bacteria are essential for our digestive health. When we consume foods with high sodium content and ignore drinking enough water, the high salt content in our food wipes out the gut microbiota and leaves the intestines in poor health, causing indigestion and constipation. OUCH!

Intensifying obesity

Snacking on salty treats and never feeling satiated after, is a never-ending loop that we all have gotten stuck into, at some point. This leads to overeating and weight gain. A recent study has found that people who eat more salt tend to get hungrier faster. This culminates in an increased risk of various diseases related to obesity.

Rising Hypertension

If you stress about your blood pressure and your blood pressure rises because of that stress, you might not be the only one! Increased salt intake is directly linked to increased blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. So keep your blood pressure monitoring meters at hand, and keep the salty devil away! All for the sake of your health.

Liver ailments

They say, if you love your liver, you will live longer. Fatty liver disease is not only observed in people who consume an excessive amount of alcohol but also in people who don’t drink at all! It is called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Patients suffering from the same are advised to avoid high sodium foods and stick to a clean balanced diet majorly comprising fresh green vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean meats. The liver is responsible for the production of bile in our body. When the salt levels are off the charts, the composition of bile is affected. This can cause long-term digestive problems.

Kidney stones

Kidney stones are one of the most painful conditions known to us, and the amount of salt you eat has a grand role to play. Salt tends to increase calcium excretion in the urine which is one of the major reasons for getting kidney stones. Drinking water and reducing salt intake are primary steps to avoid getting kidney stones. Exercising regularly will also help break down the stones in size which helps our body get rid of them.

Strange swelling

Consuming too much salt can cause swelling in the feet, around the ankles, and even on your face. Oedema is the swelling caused because of fluid being trapped inside the body’s tissues. There is also pitting oedema, meaning when you poke the swelling it will form a dent or pit on the skin. This oedema could be because of other health issues like high blood pressure but is commonly linked to consuming excessive salt. If you notice suspicious swelling in these regions of your body, it’s safe to see a doctor and watch your salt intake.

Excessive thirst

After feasting at your favourite restaurant, do you feel an unquenchable thirst taking over you after an hour or so? This is because outside foods are made with different types of salts and chemical-based substances like MSG and preservatives. When we consume large meals outside, the levels of salt in our bodies shoot up making us extremely thirsty. This thirst is nothing but our body demanding water to dilute this salt and maintain the osmotic balance in our bodies. It’s best to avoid eating out too often as the high level of salt in that food is upsetting for the body.

Desensitization towards salt

Salt and sugar are two highly addictive substances that we need to consume in moderation in our daily life. When we become habitual to eating a lot of salt in our snacks and meals, the taste of food with less salt doesn’t seem satisfactory. Our tastebuds become unruly and demand excessive salt at every meal. This causes desensitization towards salt. The effect this salt spree has on our insides is tragic. To avoid this whole phenomenon, it is best to always consume limited salt and avoid or reduce eating salt-laden treats

Increased cravings

Do you just randomly start craving chips, salted peanuts or other snacks that can instantly load you up with salt? This is your body craving the salt and not the snack. These cravings can quickly turn into addictions and cause maximum damage to your health. The brain can be a stubborn organ craving and demanding unhealthy foods, but it can be trained to let go of these habits. With some discipline and concern for our health, we can shun these cravings and stick to eating better foods that are good for us.

Here are some foods you should avoid if you’re looking at avoiding excessive salt

Processed meat and seafood:

This meat or seafood is meant to be preserved for a long time and is thus treated with excessive salts. These meats undergo procedures like drying, canning, salting, brining, or smoking which all involve treating the foodstuff with excessive salt. This leads to the preservation of the meat but excessive salt is harmful to one’s health.

Chips and other packaged snacks:

A favorite of children and adults alike, these foods are made with excessive salts and preservatives. There is a large amount of hidden salt in every bite you take. The different seasonings and the variety of snacks might be tempting but understanding what’s best for your body is a necessity.

Canned vegetables and entrees:

Pickled or canned vegetables are stored in salty and vinegary solutions. This leads to them absorbing all the nutri salt. This way, the vegetables are preserved but their nutritional value takes a hit and salt content goes up. Canned pasta, ravioli, or beans are all loaded with salt and preservatives which take away their nutritional credibility. It’s always best to consume fresh vegetables, beans for good health.

Frozen bread:

Pizzas, sandwiches, burgers and subs all have one thing in common, you guessed it, it’s the bread. These bread might not taste salty but there is a generous amount of hidden salt and preservatives added to them. Keep in mind the salt lurking in these bread while getting those frozen pizzas or sandwiches.

Junk food:

Fast food is a part of our modern culture now. These foods are usually frozen, deep-fried, and immersed in seasoning. The amount of hidden salt in these foods is far more dangerous than the intense salt that we can taste in them. Cutting out junk food might be a crucial step in reducing salt intake.

Here is how you can ensure that you aren’t consuming too much salt

  1. Always go for unsalted snacks eg. nuts, seeds, crisps
  2. Consume fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, meat, and seafood
  3. Avoid buying packaged snacks like potato chips
  4. Make your meals instead of buying readymade outside food
  5. Try to avoid adding extra seasonings, condiments, sauces, and dips to your meals
  6. Avoid instant foods like instant ramen and rice
  7. Replace high sodium foods with high potassium foods like bananas
  8. Try adding different herbs to your meals to make them more flavourful instead of salt

With these details, we can correlate that even though salt is essential, it can act as our enemy if consumed mindlessly. So the next time you think about munching on salty treats, give it a thought! In the end, it’s up to us, to keep or to put the salt away!

References:

Are You Eating Too Much Salt? at
https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-too-much-salt
accessed on 7th September 2021

How Salt Impacts Your Blood Pressure & More at

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/kidneys-salt-and-blood-pressure-you-need-a-delicate-balance/
accessed on 7th September 2021

What Happens If You Eat Too Much Salt? at
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-happens-if-you-eat-too-much-salt
accessed on 7th September 2021

Quality of life in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in combination with essential hypertension considering taste sensitivity to sodium chloride at
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27487534/
accessed on 7th September 2021

30 Foods High in Sodium and What to Eat Instead at
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-sodium#14.-Processed-cheese
accessed on 7th September 2021

High-Salt Diet Has a Certain Impact on Protein Digestion and Gut Microbiota: A Sequencing and Proteome Combined Study. At
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5627008/#:~:text=The%20present%20study%20provides%20some,enzymes%2C%20and%20gut%20microbiota%20composition.
Accessed on 15th September 2021