How Much Salt Do We Need?
Salts can be scientifically defined as compounds formed due to chemical reaction of an acid with a base. In solution, these salts exist in the form of charged particles called the ions or electrolytes. Hence, solutions containing dissolved salts are called electrolytic solutions.
Our body fluids are essentially electrolytic solutions containing numerous salts. These salts have specific body functions. The major functions of these salts include fluid regulation of the cells, maintaining the right pH of blood and neurological transmission.
Sodium and chloride are the two most important ionic entities among them. Apart from sodium and chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium salts play a vital role in the human physiology. Salts of iron, zinc, copper, selenium, iodine, fluorine and chromium also play a role in the physiological process.
Sodium is essential for the transmission of nerve impulses, muscular contractions (including the heart muscles), maintaining the body fluid volume, acid-base balance and blood pressure regulation. Chloride plays a vital role in the gastric secretion during digestion and maintaining potassium levels in the body. It also plays substantial role in the respiration process during carbon dioxide exchange. Chloride is also essential for neuromuscular activities and blood pressure control.
Thus, any loss of body fluids results in an electrolytic imbalance in the system leading to impairment of vital functions. At the same time, excess electrolytic load also harms the normal functions leading to hypertension, stroke and heart diseases.
There are complex mechanisms in the cells that govern and regulate this electrolytic balance. This includes hormonal and protein regulators. Electrolytic demand is fulfilled by the daily oral dietary intake of these salts. Excess salts are flushed out by our kidneys and the skin by perspiration.
The common table salt is a natural and easily available source of sodium and chloride. The recommendation of salt intake is about 2.3 gm per day for normal adults and 1.5 gm for adults beyond their 50s. 2.3 gm of salt works to about one teaspoon. Any dietary intake that crosses 3.4 gm of salt per day can be classified under excess dietary consumption.
Fruits, vegetables and milk are excellent sources of other mineral salts that are vital for body functions. To summarize, salt is an essential dietary constituent and moderate daily intake is beneficial.
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