This is what happens in the body when you eat too much salt
How harmful is salt really?
Our body needs a little salt, but too much can be very harmful: The risk of high blood pressure increases drastically. Important to know: In order to live a healthy life, we basically don’t need to add salt to anything with a normal diet. There is enough and sometimes too much salt in our food.
The greatest dangers of too much salt
There are three main stress factors from too much salt:
- High blood pressure and associated cardiovascular diseases
- Burden on the kidneys when excreting excess salt
- Burden on the microbiome (composition of intestinal bacteria)
High blood pressure from too much salt can become a serious problem. When the patients in question then go into treatment, they are given tablets for high blood pressure, which, however, have a poor effect even if there is too much salt in the blood.
Nothing helps: those affected have to eat less salt. Incidentally, a lot of salt can also lead to obesity because it stimulates the appetite as a flavor enhancer. In the intestinal microbiome, the salt reduces the lactobacilli, in turn it increases the concentration of Th17 helper cells in the blood. These are important for the immune system, but in excessive amounts they increase blood pressure.
Is giving up salt a way out?
No, not at all. Aside from the fact that food tastes practically nothing without salt, too little salt would also be dangerous. We need the minerals chloride, sodium and potassium, which salt provides. They regulate the electrolyte, water and acid-base balance, and they also maintain tissue tension. Sodium and potassium are very important for the muscles and nerves because they enable the necessary build-up of electrical voltage in the cell membranes: Only then can nerve impulses be transmitted. We need these for muscle contractions and for the heart to function properly.
Potassium is a cofactor of enzymes, which in turn boost the production of glycogen and protein. The fluid balance also needs salt. If you eat less than three grams of salt a day, you could get sick. Salt loss is also dangerous, which occurs with a lot of sweat, fever, diarrhea and vomiting. Diuretic medications such as antihypertensives, antiepileptics and antidepressants can also trigger it. There is a risk of a very low sodium content in the blood, which leads to so-called hyponatraemia. Symptoms include dizziness and problems with balance and orientation.
The right amount of salt
There are different recommendations for the right amount of salt per day. The German Society for Nutrition recommends an intake of six grams per day, American scientists recommend only five grams. The actual salt intake is higher, namely in Germany at eight to ten grams (slightly higher values for men). People don’t necessarily add too much salt to their food, they absorb the salt with food. We get 80 percent of our daily salt intake from processed foods:
- Bread and rolls (up to 28 percent of our salt intake)
- Meat and sausage products (up to 21 percent)
- Dairy products and cheese (up to 11 percent)
- Chips and nibbles
- Ready meals and instant soups
Bread and rolls contain between 0.79 and 1.67 grams of salt per 100 grams. Salt-reduced bread contains 1.0 gram, which makes no difference in taste to salt-rich bread. This allows a significant portion of the daily salt intake to be reduced.
Chips and snacks in front of the TV are dangerous. Anyone who tends to have high blood pressure should consistently avoid it. Noodles and potatoes do not have to be overly salted either.
Replace sodium with potassium
The salty taste is created by the sodium and potassium in the salt. However, these two minerals sometimes have opposite effects. Potassium can even lower blood pressure.
Therefore, if we prefer foods with little sodium but more potassium, we eat much healthier and hardly lose anything in terms of taste. These are vegetables and fruits. We recommend bananas, apricots, carrots, tomatoes and kohlrabi. Tomato paste contains a particularly large amount of potassium, but relatively little sodium and yet has a wonderfully spicy effect. Potatoes and nuts are also harmless sources of potassium. When seasoning, it is advisable to first season the food with herbs and other spices apart from salt. With a little practice, you can create wonderfully hearty but low-salt dishes.