A pinch of salt.

Author:Canning, Clare
Position:DETAILS: Good Health & Good Living
 
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Throughout history, salt has played an influential role in the economic, social and political development of many civilisations. Wars have been fought over salt, which has also been used as a currency and is still used today among the nomads of Ethiopia's Danakil Plains. This plentiful commodity is an essential element to life, we could not survive without it.

The human body requires salt to function properly. Salt, or more precisely sodium, is required to regulate fluid balance in the body. Sodium is a constituent of salt; it makes up about 40% of the salt we use in food. In terms of health, overconsumption of salt is more of a concern than underconsumption. It is recommended we do not consume more than 3g of sodium per day--approximately 6g of salt (1 teaspoon).

Sodium has a strong dehydrating effect. Following a meal or a snack, the sodium in food is absorbed into the bloodstream. If the sodium content of the blood is high, it draws water from our cells causing the volume of blood to increase. An increased blood volume exerts an extra workload on the heart, forcing it to work harder to pump more blood around the body. This in turn may lead to high blood pressure in susceptible adults.

Although rare, sodium deficiency can also be a health concern. It is most likely to happen if you are exercising in a hot climate where you lose a lot of fluid through sweating. Severe dehydration can lead to weakness, muscle cramps, headaches and in the most severe case, shock.

Even in hot climates where fluid loss and dehydration is greater, we generally do not need to supplement the diet...

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