Salt Awareness: Swap the Salt
Salt. It’s everywhere. Who would’ve thought that a mineral we find in the ground could make our meals so tasty? From chips to chocolate, we add salt to EVERYTHING. It’s the go-to seasoning for practically every food. With just a pinch, the flavour of your homemade soup goes from nice, to mouth-wateringly delicious.
Now, don’t get salty, but it’s likely that the amount of salt you consume in a day exceeds your recommended daily dosage. But a lot of that is widely out of your control. Did you know that 75% of the salt we consume is already present in the foods we eat?
Salt is one of those ingredients that we all have a love hate relationship with. We love how much it improves our meals, but we hate how much we have to monitor our sodium intake. In this blog, we’re going to look at the side effects of having too much, and too little salt, as well as some interesting salt alternatives that you might want to consider using!
Related article: Food to avoid with high blood pressure
Lack of Salt Symptoms
Despite its bad reputation, salt is an essential to keep us going. Our body needs sodium, which is one of the two elements present in salt, the other being chloride. Sodium is what the body uses to transmit nerve impulses, keep our muscles functioning, and to maintain proper fluid balance. A lack of salt can cause hyponatremia, which includes symptoms such as:
With salt being an essential to keeping our muscles functioning, it’s understandable that one of the main symptoms of a lack of salt is muscle cramps and spasms. With less sodium, our muscles will struggle to maintain the strength that they’re used to, and as we lose sodium through regular bodily functions such as sweating, cramps are even more likely to occur.
With no sodium to keep your muscles going, you’ll likely feel tired a lot more of the time. You might find yourself feeling out of breathe after climbing the stairs, and carrying heavy objects might feel like more of a challenge.
Your brain may be unable to function properly from a lack of sodium and imbalanced fluids, this can cause headaches that thus cause confusion and fatigue.
Nausea and vomiting
With irregular fluid balance and your muscles not functioning as they should, you’re likely feel rather nauseous. In more extreme cases you may even find yourself vomiting.
Confusion and irritability
With your brain struggling to function, your mind will start to spin. This cause you to feel confused a lot of the time. You may not be able to process what is being asked of you at work, or forgetting what you walking into a room for. Confusion can lead to irritability, you may find your tempter is shorter than normal.
If you find yourself experiencing any of the above symptoms, be sure to contact your GP. Eating more salt may be the solution to a feeling slightly tired, but other causes of hyponatremia are much more serious. This includes:
Severer hyponatremia can lead to seizures, falling into a coma, and even death.
Excessive Salt Symptoms
However, there is also the other end of spectrum, which is much more common. It is very easy for us to eat too much salt, with the NHS recommending a daily salt intake being a mere 6g for the average adult.
There are many signs indicating that there might be too much salt in your diet. This can include:
We all know that salt makes us thirsty. This is because having too much sodium interferes with our body’s fluid balance. Obviously, the number one solution to this is to drink more water!
More frequent urination
Another common symptom of a high-salt diet is frequent urination. However, frequent urination is a common symptom for many other conditions, including UTIs and diabetes, so don’t rule those out as other causes.
Feeling bloated in the morning? Can you feel swelling around your fingers and ankles? This could be caused by too much salt! This swelling is caused by excess fluids in the body’s tissue known as edema.
Dehydration can really mess with your head, and if you’re dehydrated from eating too much salty food, then it’s likely that you’ll start to experience headaches every now and then. Headaches are also common with a lack of salt, so if you’re only experiencing this symptom, don’t jump to conclusions!
You may be looking through your food cupboards and realise that you’re drawn to salty foods like crisps and cheese more than you used to. So if you’re asking yourself “why am I craving salt?” It’s likely because you’re consuming a high amount of salt already, so your body is wanting more. Many people find salt very moreish, so it makes sense that the more salt you eat, the more salt you crave.
Eating too much salt can also make regular foods taste more bland, which tricks your mind into adding even more salt, thus continuing the salty cycle!
A highly salty diet can cause all sorts of problems. Your body only needs a small amount of sodium to function as it should, so anything more can cause the following:
This week is Salt Awareness Week, a week dedicated to making changes to our diets to ensure we are protecting our bodies as much as possible without missing out on all the incredible flavours to discover.
We all use salt because it’s simple and everyone loves it. But there are so many salt alternatives that you can use in your meals to ensure that you are watching your salt intake without losing the deliciousness of your dishes.
Like salt, garlic is a really simple seasoning that adds delectable flavour to your meals, but without adding sodium content. In fact, garlic has many health benefits that make it not only a delicious alternative to salt, but a healthy alternative too. For example, garlic is known for being able to fight bacteria and viruses. The nutritional benefits of garlic also means that it’s good for chronic kidney disease.
There’s no better combo than salt and pepper, they’re ultimate duo. But have you ever considered using black pepper without its significant other? Ground black pepper is the perfect salt alternative if you want to enhance your soups, roasts and pasta dishes. Adding a hint of heat to bring your taste buds to life! Black pepper is also an anti-inflammatory and may have potent antioxidant properties, meaning it could improve cholesterol levels, and brain and gut health.
Arguably the best smell on Earth is the smell of fried onions. Similar to garlic, onion is the faultless salt alternative to amplify your savoury tuck-in. Dreading the inevitable tears that come with chopping onions? You can always use dried onion or onion powder instead, both of which are actually more potent than fresh onion, increasing that incredible mix of spice and sweetness. Onions are also known to decrease cholesterol levels.
The NHS has many tips and tricks for lowering salt in your diet, by taking everything into consideration, you’ll be improving your health in no time!
It’s impossible to completely cut out salt. Not only is it present in everything, it’s also very tasty! But we can all take small steps to improve our health, and mixing up our seasonings is a great start. Remember to always check the labels on the packaging, and consider less-salty alternatives.