is salt a friend or foe?...

A pinch here a dash there – salt enhances flavour and extends food’s shelf life. Without sodium our nerve cells can’t transmit electrical impulses, our body cannot maintain the right balance of fluids and our muscles can’t contract and relax properly.

Why then is the World Health Organisation advocating a global reduction in salt? Because many, many people get around twice the recommended amount of sodium in their diets.

A study published in the January 2009 Journal of Rena Nutrition concluded that lowering ones sodium intake helps reduce blood pressure, also lowers your risk for having a heart attack or stroke and  helps keep blood vessels working properly.

The study also measured the impact of salt restriction on the endothelium, the thin layer of cells that line the interior of the blood vessels and help regulate blood flow.

Overweight and obese study participants with normal blood pressure who restricted the sodium in their diets showed evidence of improved endothelial function compared to participants who did not restrict salt. The improvement appeared to be unrelated to the impact on blood pressure, suggesting that salt restriction is independently protective of blood vessel function.

It is generally recommended that healthy people eat no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day – about the amount found in one teaspoon (6 grams) of table salt. But the average European eats more than twice that, even if they rarely pick up a salt shaker. Processed foods are often loaded with salt, even those that don’t taste all that salty – that is why it is so important to read labels.

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