Salt is a widespread mineral on the whole planet, and most of the tissues and liquids belonging to living beings contain some salt. Let’s see the consequences of excessive consumption of the diet. Salt is a compound of sodium chloride (chlorine and sodium) that our body needs, but its high consumption can seriously damage the circulatory system.
- Table salt: it is a mineral salt subjected to various degrees of refining, generally free of chemical additives, and available in blocks in natural food stores;
- Table salt: finely or coarsely ground mineral salt to which magnesium carbonate and other substances are added. It is the most used salt in the kitchen. Iodised salt (both “fine” and “coarse”) is commercially available, which should not be confused with “sea salt” or “whole salt”. Iodised salt is plain salt to which iodine has been added as iodide and potassium iodate. It is not a dietary product intended for particular categories of individuals but a food that should become of current use. The doctor can sometimes recommend it to hypertensive subjects who have difficulty limiting their consumption of common salt;
- Sea salt derives from the evaporation of seawater (using the sun and wind or with artificial processes). It is usually sold in shops;
- Bay salt: sea salt produced by the evaporation of seawater due to the sun and wind (of more excellent value than that obtained with artificial processes); it is traditionally used to salt meat and fish;
- Saltpetre: in reality, it is not salt but potassium nitrate. It is used as a preservative by adding it in small quantities to regular salt.
In the kitchen, the use of salt is essential but requires some precautions:
- Salt the vegetables to be boiled after cooking to keep their nutrients;
- salt the dried legumes towards the end of cooking to prevent them from hardening
- Salt the meat in the casserole after having browned it
- Salt the meat to be grilled before cooking
- Sprinkle vegetables such as aubergines or courgettes with salt, which will lose their bitter taste after being cut into slices, and leave them to rest for about fifteen minutes before cooking.
It should be known that each gram of salt contains about 0.4 g of sodium; under normal conditions, our body eliminates 0.1 to 0.6 g of sodium daily. High salt consumption can favor the onset of arterial hypertension, especially in predisposed people; it increases the risk for certain diseases of the heart, blood vessels and kidneys, both through the increase in blood pressure and independently of this mechanism. It is the number one enemy of those who suffer from water retention. Sodium retains water inside the tissues, preventing the correct exchange of liquids between the cell and the outside.
Even though some people are genetically predisposed to retain sodium (about 1/3 of hypertensives are), many diets (especially Western ones) tend to provide excessive amounts of sodium. This is due to an alteration in the hydro-saline balance mechanisms, with consequent alteration of blood pressure, acid-base body balance, muscle contraction and nerve transmission. It is also associated with a higher risk of stomach cancer, higher urinary calcium losses, and, therefore, a higher risk of osteoporosis.
Sodium is already naturally present in many foods we consume daily. Reducing sodium intake, so that intake levels are closer to those recommended can help lower blood pressure or delay its onset; let’s remember that with aging, the pressure tends to increase, and it is good, however, to exaggerate the consumption. In addition, a low-sodium diet can help decrease the dosage of antihypertensive drugs, if any. When we talk about salt, we must not think only of what we use to flavor pasta water or to season some foods, such as fries or salads; the salt in foods is much more insidious.
- Stock cubes: from broth or vegetable or meat extracts for broth.
- Alternative condiments and sauces of all kinds: gomasio, miso, tamari, soy sauce.
- All cheeses: including Parmesan and mozzarella, even in small quantities, such as the classic sprinkling on pasta.
- Sausages and cured meats: all.
- Smoked, dried, preserved meat: bresaola included, even if “natural or organic”.
- Smoked fish: salmon, herring, tuna, etc.
- Preserved fish: canned anchovies, salted anchovies, canned tuna (even if “natural”), clams, caviar, etc.
- Olives, chips, roasted and salted nuts: all appetizer snacks, including peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews and the like.
- Fast food of all kinds.
- Preparations in brine: and almost always also pickled and in oil.
- Bakery products: focaccia, pizza, bread, crackers, breadsticks, biscuits, etc. Even desserts, cakes and biscuits (especially industrial ones), salt-free bread (Tuscan type), and many breakfast bowls of cereal, despite appearances, have a relatively high intrinsic salt content: cereals can be used as an alternative to puffed bread, cereal slices, and rice cakes. A critical study (the DASH) has clearly shown how the maximum salt content is present in industrial foods that are not traditionally considered salty, such as biscuits and sweets.
When Shopping At The Supermarket, You Should Stop And Read The Food Composition Of The Food You Buy
On the label, the ingredients in more significant quantities are mentioned first; those in smaller quantities last; the amount of sodium contained is always indicated. It is also important to remember the names of some ingredients that indicate the presence of salt, such as sodium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, monosodium phosphate, monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrate and nitrite and so on.
At the table, it is advisable to add salt only to the pasta cooking water and possibly flavor the dishes with spices and herbs, which can make them equally tasty; recommended white meats (chicken, turkey, rabbit), freshwater fish (trout, pike, carp) or sea fish such as sole, cod, sea bream, red snapper. Avoid animal condiments (butter, lard) and choose extra virgin olive oil. Furthermore, it is better to prefer fresh cheeses to aged ones (gorgonzola, taleggio, Parmesan, mascarpone).
To Stay Healthy, Take These Steps
- Get your palate used to appreciating the original flavor of foods.
- Add salt only to the pasta cooking water.
- Never add salt to already-seasoned dishes.
- Season the dishes with spices and herbs
- Reduce consumption of canned foods, salty snacks, sauces, bouillon cubes, animal condiments, and frozen or packaged ready meals
- White meats are preferred (rabbit, chicken, turkey)
- Avoid frequently eating preserved meat, aged cheeses, cold cuts, seafood, and stuffed pasta (tortellini, ravioli, cannelloni).
- Consume lots of fruit and vegetables, foods with the lowest sodium content
- Prefer salt-free bread (Tuscan type)
- Always read the nutritional labels of food products, which list the ingredients, including salt.