A pinch of salt might just be a pinch too much

Salt
You may be surprised to know that salt may also be a culprit behind your weight gain.

While high salt or sodium intake has been clearly implicated in development of high blood pressure and stomach cancer, its role in development of insulin resistance, which can lead to weight gain and obesity, is relatively new.

Studies have shown that insulin resistance can be ameliorated by salt restriction. Evidence from the studies has suggests that excess dietary salt and caloric intake, common in urban diets rich in processed foods, is linked not only to increased blood pressure, but also to defective insulin sensitivity, blood glucose levels and thereby obesity. Further, salt sensitivity and insulin resistance have been identified as key elements in the development of hypertension, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In fact, an animal study done in Japan, published in the Journal of Hypertension in 2002, explored the link between insulin resistance and high salt intake in salt sensitive rats.

It suggested that there was a significant increase in blood glucose and insulin levels in rats that were fed a high salt diet.

While certain amount of sodium is essential in our food, excess can be a problem. Too much of it may also have harmful health effects, including increased risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney disease, liver cirrhosis and water retention which translates into pounds on the scale. On the other hand, low sodium too can be a problem, leading to confusion, depression, hallucinations, headaches, fatigue, irritability, muscle weakness, cramps, nausea, restlessness, vomiting and in severe cases even death. So, as you watch your calories, fat and sugar intake, budget for salt as well. However, don't leave it out completely.

Different strokes for different folks

On average, most people consume much more salt/sodium than they need. While one teaspoon of salt (6 gm of salt = * 2400 mg sodium) per day is the recommended amount, most people consume 3500-4300 mg sodium a day.

WHO advises high blood pressure patients to limit salt intake to 1,600 mg of sodium per day

Those with low blood pressure, or those who spend long hours in the sun/heat, have higher than normal sodium requirement

Quick TIPS TO CURTAIL SALT INTAKE

Read Nutrition Facts label to find foods low in sodium

Look out for foods with compounds that has sodium or Na in its name

Substitute salt in your recipes with your own seasoning blend

Add fresh lemon juice instead of salt to daals, fish and vegetables

Avoid sprinkling salt on fruits and salads.

Restrict pickles, pappads, aam-papads, chutneys and churans to a minimum. Prepare these at home, using small amounts of salt.

Choose fresh or frozen unprocessed food preparations over those that are canned

shi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being, one should integrate physical, mental and spiritual health. According to her: "To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all."

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