Expert Commentary: Dr. Micozzi, M.D. - May 26, 2009

Posted by Admin on May 26, 2009

We are all beginning to realize that too much salt may be bad for our health. Yet, our bodies need some sodium (better known as salt) to function properly. The body uses sodium, to maintain the right balance of fluids in our bodies. We also need sodium to transmit nerve impulses. In addition, sodium influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles.

Our kidneys regulate the amount of sodium kept in the body. When sodium levels drop to a certain level, the organ responds to conserve the sodium. As the sodium levels rise, it is excreted in the urine. 

At some point, if your kidneys can't eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to accumulate in the blood. If you remember your high school biology class one of the main functions of the kidneys is to filter the blood. From basic chemistry class you may also recall that salt holds water. So as the sodium in the blood rises, it attracts water, increasing the volume of blood. Increased blood volume, in turn, makes your heart work harder to move more blood through your blood vessels, increasing pressure in your arteries. This can be the beginning of several dangerous circulatory problems, including high blood pressure and the possibility of congestive heart failure. In turn, the increased pressure on blood vessels can damage the kidneys further, making it more difficult for the organ to regulate the sodium -- the beginning of a dangerous cycle.

The challenge is that there simply is too much salt in the average American diet. We love the flavor or salt or more precisely how it enhances flavor.  So here are some simple tips we can use to reduce our salt intake.

·    Reduce the amount of salt during cooking, and instead flavor food with herbs, spices, garlic, and lemon juice.

·    Do not to add extra seasoning to your food (at least taste it first).

·    Look for canned vegetables and pulses without added salt – and then only add salt to taste.

·    If you buy ready-made meals, look for those with controlled, or reduced, salt.

·    Buy canned food in water, rather than in brine.

·    Cut down on salty foods, such as crisps, nuts, bacon and salty cheeses.

·    Avoid using sauces, such as mayonnaise and ketchup, with your meal because they are often high in salt.

·    Use low-salt stock cubes, or make your own stock.


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