Salt Free Diet

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A diet by definition is a selection of certain types of food that are taken in order to obtain certain objectives. By far, most of the diets that are commonly followed are weight reduction programmes. However there are certain diets that are prescribed to deal with medical disorders. Salt Free diet is one such diet that involves the minimum use of salt in one’s food so as to reduce excessive sodium retention. Some of the conditions that require sodium regulation are high blood pressure, heart disease, acute and chronic kidney disease and impaired liver function. The sodium in the salt also leads to fluid retention and an associated disorder called edema.

One of the reasons for the onset of edema is a poor diet and a lack of exercise. This obviously includes the intake of a large dose of sodium in one’s food which actually encourages water retention. So what are the treatment options that are available in such cases? One of the obvious ways of reducing fluid retention is by choosing a salt free diet. In fact various studies have pointed the link between edema and the high sodium intake. This has also been extended to disorders of the heart, kidney and the liver, not to mention blood pressure levels. All these studies point out to the toxicity of sodium present in the diet and have therefore advised on reducing the intake of sodium. The American Heart Association and other organizations advise people to limit their salt intake to the equivalent of no more than 1 teaspoon (2.3 grams) of sodium each day.

Contents

Kicking the Salt Habit : Taste vs Health

How much of salt is really enough? As a rule, nutritionists say you shouldn't have more than 200 milligrams per 100 calories of food. Sodium is a mineral found in the human system and is also got from the food that is eaten. Sodium Chloride or salt is also used to process and preserve food, which is why canned food and processed goods that one buys is more likely to have this in high doses. At home, one uses salt mainly as a taste enhancer and rarely for other considerations. Sodium in small amounts can actually do some good and apart from the taste enhancing bit, the sodium present in the body is used to produce muscle contractions, maintain fluid balance, conduct nerve impulses, and carry nutrients to cells.

Salt is thus present in our system and is required in very small amounts and so it does make better sense to switch to a ‘low sodium’ product. In this way the taste and the health is maintained. Generally, a food is considered ‘low sodium’ if it has less than 140 mg of sodium chloride per serving.

Keeping The Salt off The Table

In cases where salt may cause health complications there are other salt free alternatives that one can explore. Keeping the salt shaker of limits is a very useful way of regulating the sodium content. Other helpful ways in which this can be regulated are:

  • Prepare food by omitting salt or use salt very sparingly;
  • Cook food using herbs, spices and lemon juices so that the flavours come out and can be enjoyed without salt;
  • Do not eat out as often as food cooked in restaurants is usually high in their sodium content. This is owing to the fact the sodium in the food numbs taste buds, and makes the food seem tasty and enjoyable;
  • Go easy on canned products as it is usually preserved and so high on the salt content. In case it is a must then try and rinse it before eating it as this way the extra salt comes off.
  • It is helpful to read the labels. Also be wary of labels that read salt, soy sauce, any ingredient with the word sodium (such as monosodium glutamate) or sodium bicarbonate which is baking soda.
  • Eat food that can be had raw, like fruits and certain vegetables. Also a salad will serve the purpose as the seasoning can be really adjusted to suit taste buds and health requirements.
  • Marinating foods in curd or yoghurt along with ginger, garlic and onion paste along with loads of tomatoes and or green chillies can go a long way as this gives food, especially meats a fine flavour which can help stepping down of the salt content
  • Make your own stock and broth at home rather than depending on marketed stock cubes as they have been found to have a high content of salt.
  • Know your food labels as other key words that signal a higher salt content like, barbequed (especially if the barbeque paste is brought from a super market), teriyaki, Creole sauce, cocktail sauce, tomato base, cheese based or even mustard sauce. These usually signal high sodium content.
  • It becomes even more necessary to choose the right kind of food while avoiding the obvious threats like potato fries, crispies, pizzas, salted nuts and other convenience foods.
  • Drink plenty of water, as contradictory as it may sound , especially for these who suffer from edema. Also stock up on juices especially cranberry juice which is known to have a mild diuretic effect

Eat Right

Most foods naturally contain sodium chloride. It is the sodium that is the more harmful element. A sodium free diet, according to many nutritionists is not really possible. Still it helps to know the salt content in foods that we eat and choose wisely.

  1. Foods low in salt (0-20 mg/100 g): sugar, flour, fruit, green vegetables, macaroni, and nuts.
  2. Medium salt (50-100 mg/100 g): chicken, fish, eggs, meat, milk.
  3. High salt (500-2000 mg/100 g): corned beef, bread, ham, bacon, kippers, sausages, cheese.

The other side to the Salt Story

Salt has been vilified by a lot of medical practitioners, especially those treating cardio vascular diseases and high blood pressure levels. In fact the common table salt has been under much attack. Therefore the question: Is salt a danger to health?

Those on the other side to the whole debate feel that salt has been unduly demonized, especially in view of the fact that it is present in our cells, in our tears, sweat …in short in the human body. Hence it cannot really be such a bad thing. Human bodies need salt. The question is what kind of salt and how much.

There are three kinds of salts:

  1. The common table salt or sodium chloride- All of the medical world is unanimous in its view that the table salt that we mostly use is dangerous and is often linked to high blood pressure, hypertensions, cardio vascular diseases, asthma etc. so this should be avoided.
  2. Sea Salt: this is full of minerals and is actually beneficial. However these days the sea salt is processed by manufacturers and sold after removing much of its nutrients;
  3. Sun Dried Celtic Sea Salt that has the good ness of about 84 minerals and actually is helpful for the health.

It is the last two varieties of salt that are not toxic to the body and in fact can actually be good for its proper functioning. In fact Celtic salt is the best of the lot and is so named as it was first produced in France.

The entire health field is very sloppy and unclear and restrictive with its terminology on salt and most of the hazards listed have to do with the common table salt. In fact the most convincing argument in favour of salt is verified by nature, essentially the presence of salt in the amniotic fluid.

Salt is essential to digestion. In fact it is critical to the working of the heart, liver, adneal glands and kidneys. Sodium is the most predominant element in the circulating blood plasmas and tissue fluids.

Dangers of a Salt Free Diet

A salt free diet comes with its own set of dangers and therefore such a diet should not be embarked upon till absolutely crucial for one’s health. Some of the dangers that can occur with a salt free diet are :

  • It hastens the process of ageing since the osmotic capacities reduce and there is no exchange of sodium from the outside of a cell and potassium from the inside. Deprived of the saline solution the cells start ageing faster.
  • Further, there is no link to prove that salt reduction does have a positive effect on high blood pressure and can go on to lower it. In fact it can go on to actually heighten the blood pressure levels.
  • A salt free diet can also damage the valves of the heart since the contractibility of the heart can be worn down by a salt free diet since it is fed by a saline solution from the blood and the lymphatic system. The cells also run the risk of loosing their efficiency as salt is a provider of energy. A lot of sports persons often have salt based drinks. In hospitals patients are given saline solution intravenously.
  • As an aid to digestion, especially in the case of vegetarian food where there is a lot of potassium ingested from the green vegetables, salts provide the essential balance by providing the sodium. This helps in the production of hydrochloric acid that aids in digestion.

A defense of salt is further provided by the September 1982 issue of the Ocean Magazine. It listed out the other fantastic properties of salt as a source of bio-electric energy, magnetism as well as a source of inert gases as helium, neon and argon. (read www.glowing-health.com)

Homemade Salt Substitute Recipe=

Kicking the sodium habit can be a bit difficult since the salt one uses in food acts as a taste enhancer. Salt by itself contains iodine that promotes growth and development of skin, hair and nails and keeps thyroid problems at bay. Those low on iodine due to the poor functioning of the adrenal gland have to rely on salt for their dose of iodine else they might be prone to hypothyroidism, a disorder in which growth is severely stunted). Therefore salt cannot be dismissed so easily from the dinning table. However in cases of edema or disorders like hyperthyroidism, or other ailments like high blood pressure, etc. it is best to avoid the common table salt and switch to salt substitutes. One such home made salt substitute is listed below. These not only enhance the flavours of the dish, but also do away with the needless intake of sodium.

Recipe for Flavourful Salt Substitute

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon powdered orange peel
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 4-½ teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons citric acid powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon powdered lemon peel
  • ½ teaspoon dried cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in an electric blender, and grind them until they turn into fine powder. Use this in the place of regular salt. Alternatively all the above can be used in the preparation of various dishes to give a flavourful and aromatic taste without the regular salt.

Conclusion

Sodium is therefore an ingredient that is required by the body. However it is required in very less quantities. The common place sodium chloride is considered harmful. So the better alternatives are the sea salt and the celtic varieties which have almost 84 nutrients. However in case of disorders or edema, a low sodium or even a no salt diet can be opted for without negating gustatory requirements totally. Lime, vinegar, tomatoes add the desired punch to the food as also blended yoghurt. Mix and match ingredients to arrive at the combination that allows you to feel satiated as well as takes care of your health.

Did You know

  • The crust of the earth is comprised of 2.6% sodium
  • Salt can Kill if you have a lot of it. Ever heard of a situation called ‘salt shocked’? It comes with too much of toxic sodium in the blood stream causing the cells to explode.
  • Sodium can cause obesity.
  • Sodium is higher in fatty foods.

Resources

Saltinstitute.org

References

  • http://www.associatedcontent.com
  • http://www.dietsite.com
  • http://www.freedictionary.com
  • http://www.glowing-health.com

See Also