As of recently, the Food and Drug Administration is trying to decrease the average daily intake of sodium by Americans. The new guidelines they are setting forth will encourage (not ban) restaurants and food companies to limit the salt they add to foods. This would hopefully get Americans down from eating 3,400 milligrams per day to 2,300, which is what the National Institutes of Health recommends. That’s about half a teaspoon. But what does salt do to your body that is making the FDA want to decrease intake on it?
It’s Not All That Bad
Salt is not all that bad for you. Our bodies actually need the separate components that make up salt, sodium and chloride, in order to keep them functioning properly. Your body uses sodium to regulate blood flow and blood pressure. Sodium also acts as a signal molecule to help your muscles and nerves function properly. Chloride helps the body regulate fluids, which is why when you have too much salt, your water levels can get whacky.
Salt in Excess
Despite the benefits of salt intake, if you consume excess amounts of unnecessary salt, it can cause a handful of damaging effects to your body. Eating too much salt can make you pee more, making you dehydrated and thirsty. When you pee more, your body can lose too much calcium, which could lead to osteoporosis. Too much salt can also trigger the kidneys into keeping more water in the body, which could eventually lead to kidney failure over time.
Water retention can also cause swelling of the hands, arms, and legs — a condition called edema. People who eat too much salt also tend to get stomach ulcers, though scientists aren’t sure how this could happen. When more fluid courses through your veins, it can cause them to stiffen over time, leading to high blood pressure. Having high blood pressure can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke — two of the leading causes of death in the US. Clearly, cutting down our salt consumption will be beneficial to our health.