NUTRITION CORNER: We should cut back on salt for the normal functioning of our body

Our body needs sodium to function properly. Sodium is an important mineral found in bones and the fluids that surround the cells. Sodium is an important component of nerves as it stimulates muscle contraction. It also helps keep calcium and other minerals soluble in the blood. It is very vital in the maintenance of proper acid-base balance and in the transmission of nerve impulses. It also functions with chloride and bicarbonate to maintain a balance of positive and negative ions in the fluids and tissues of the body.

Sodium can be obtained in many foods like whole meal flour, bread, celery, bananas, water, milk, legumes, green and leafy vegetables, fruits, fish and meat. But sodium found in these foods is not enough to meet the daily needs of our body and so sodium chloride (table salt) is added in the diet.

Unfortunately, many people in the world, including the Filipinos get more sodium than what they need a day, mostly coming from processed foods, such as frozen pizza, potato chips, bacon, ham, salted fish and other foods. Salt is added, often in large amounts, in food processing and by cooks to enhance flavour.

But too much sodium intake may in time raise the blood pressure and increase the risk of liver cirrhosis, and congestive cardiac disorders, renal disorders, and even stomach ulcers. Researches show that high salt intake have been correlated with hypertension.

We can follow some ways to limit our sodium intake.  First, we must know that not all sodium in food is in the form of salt. Other food ingredients also contain sodium such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda, baking powder, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite which are used as preservatives in luncheon meats. Second, we must buy only brands with smaller sodium content as compared with the other brands.  We should read the Nutrition Facts label when we buy prepared and packaged foods. We should watch for the words “soda” (sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda) and “sodium” and the symbol “Na” on labels. If they are found in the label, the product certainly contains sodium compounds. Third, instead of using table salt, we can use salt-free spices for the dishes that we prepare. Fourth, when we go to the market to buy food, we must give priority to those potassium rich foods such as avocado, bananas, beets, cantaloupe, cocoa power and dark chocolate, prunes, raisins, nuts, seeds of pumpkin, squash, sunflower, fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies; beans such as soy beans, lima beans, black beans, melons, milk,  and others. Why potassium rich foods? According to researches, sodium consorts with potassium to maintain proper body water distribution and blood pressure.

Too much sodium is hazardous to our health. We should cut back on salt/sodium for the normal functioning of our body.#