Salt of the earth

how-much-salt-do-we-need

 

 

Definition

 Salt is something on most households table.  Sodium is a soft, silvery white, highly reactive metal.  Chloride is from a toxic, irritating, green poisonous gas.  However, together they form sodium chloride, commonly known as salt.

Salt & Humans

Salt, this highly soluble compound is an essential electrolyte located in all body fluids responsible for maintaining acid/base balances, transmitting nerve impulses and regulating fluids in and out of cells.

Additionally salt is very important in the food industry as a flavouring and preservative.  Our main source of salt is in our diet especially in processed foods such as meat, fish, cereals and some dairy produce.

Risk of Salt

There is a risk of taking too much salt as it can increase a person’s blood pressure and subsequently increase the risk of a heart attack and stroke.

Government departments and the scientific community are constantly assessing what levels of salt are acceptable in food and advise the population accordingly.

Guidelines

The recommended daily maximum is age dependent;

Adults                   6gms (1 teaspoon full)

7-10 years           5gms

4-6 years              3gms

1-3 years              2gms

Infants                  1gm (less than)

To put this in to perspective, a packed lunch for a six year old that could contain a ham sandwich, a cheese stick and crisps, could contain the daily recommended maximum 3gms of salt.  As for the full Irish/English breakfast (depending on whether you like beans or not) could contain up to 7gms of salt, more than the recommended maximum for an adult and that’s before you shake a salt cellar in its direction.

What can you do?

You can check the label and swap to low salt versions of your usual meals – for example, some ketchup brands can have five times the salt content of others.

However, when you are checking labels, be careful as some foods are labelled with weight of sodium instead of weight of salt, but there is a simple formula for conversion;

1g of sodium = 2.5gms of salt

Also, some products substitute potassium chloride for sodium chloride.

This has the effect of reducing the sodium content and reduces the health risks mentioned above.  But it’s not all good news, as too much potassium has its own health risks, such as certain kidney and heart problems.

Home cooked foods will contain less salt so more casseroles, curries, soup and even pasta sauce made in the kitchen at home, would be a much healthier option.  So let’s get cooking!

The most important way of all to reduce the salt content of the diet is to HIDE the salt cellar.  This might sound very obvious but it works.  Salt is an acquired taste so it is easy to get used to having

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