Table salt consists of two elements, sodium and chloride, and both are essential for normal physiological functions. Sodium plays key roles in maintaining the water balance in our bodies and ensuring that nerve impulses can be transmitted to and received by various tissues.
The kidneys are responsible for helping to regulate the amount of sodium in our bodies, and the endocrine system produces hormones that also are involved. Sodium may enhance the flavour of many foods, but too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, bone loss (osteoporosis) and stomach cancer.
Dietary Salt Can Contribute to Bone Loss
Over twenty years ago, it became clear that dietary sodium was a factor in the bone loss conditions osteopenia and osteoporosis. Dietary salt affects bone loss by causing your kidneys to excrete more calcium in your urine . Because your body keeps its blood calcium level very tightly regulated, when calcium is lost through the urine your body replaces it from the calcium stored in your bones. If calcium is being taken from your bones faster than it is being replaced on an ongoing basis, the bone loss can become chronic and even permanent if left untreated.
Your Salt Intake Could Raise Your Risk for Stomach Cancer
While the mechanisms by which salt increases the risk of stomach cancer have not been fully explored, it is thought that one route is by making infection with the bacterium H. pylori more likely . This infection harms the lining of the stomach and increases the risk for cancer in the future.
Tips for Reducing Your Sodium Intake
Health Canada recommends keeping your sodium intake to 2300 mg/day or less. This is the amount found in 1 teaspoon of salt.
• High sodium foods include: baked goods, seafood, olives, pickles, cheese, salted butter, cocoa powder, smoked/deli meats, canned vegetables, and soups.
• Watch for hidden sodium by reading ingredient labels. High sodium ingredients include baking soda, baking powder, MSG, spice mixes, condiments such as prepared mustard , and food additives whose chemical names include the word sodium.
• Cut back on adding salt to your food at the table. Use salt-free seasoning blends instead.