Medical Q&As

Salt consumption - how much?

I am a student and most of the food provided in our canteen is loaded with salt. How much salt should I be taking each day?

The level of salt consumption in the developed world has increased greatly in recent decades partly due to the increased use of processed foods. In the USA the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, which is a federal agency, has stated that if everybody reduced their daily consumption of salt to less than one teaspoonful per day, strokes could be reduced by 42% and heart disease by more than 20%. However this advice is now being challenged by the results of further research that suggests that a high salt intake does not necessarily lead to high blood pressure. Some researchers have postulated that some of us may be more sensitive to the effects of salt than others and describe this trait as “salt sensitivity”. Thus salt sensitive people tend to respond adversely to high salt consumption and go on to develop high blood pressure and kidney problems. However those who are not salt sensitive may be able to tolerate a higher level of salt consumption without any ill effects. Maybe you are salt sensitive or maybe you’re not but I think a common sense approach to your question is reasonable. Since the canteen food is already very salty I would not add salt to such food at the table. Try to introduce balance into your diet by eating more fresh fruit and vegetables because the amount of potassium in such foods can balance the possible negative effects of the sodium contained in salt. When you are cooking for yourself try to eat home prepared food rather than convenience foods. The latter tend to contain a high level of salt. Reduce the amount of salt that you add when you are cooking and consider banishing salt from the table.