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A pinch of salt

Salt is bad for you, right? That's what all the health claims say but it's actually not so clear-cut. Sodium (the mineral in salt) plays an important role in maintaining the balance of electrolytes in our bodies. Magnesium, sodium, chloride and potassium are all mineral salts that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. It is important to consume these minerals in the right balance. Too much sodium (from salt) can disrupt this balance, but it is equally important to have an adequate amount of potassium, magnesium and chloride too.

A high sodium diet can increase your risk of high blood pressure, so it might be worth keeping an eye on your salt intake if you live with high blood pressure or it runs in your family. However, some sodium is needed in the body to maintain a proper fluid balance, and it is actually the ratio of the different electrolytes that is more important, so ensuring an adequate intake of potassium is just as crucial. Potassium is found in sweet potatoes, avocados, bananas, potatoes,spinach and oranges.

Ensuring adequate fluid intake is also vital to maintaining fluid/salt balance. 1.5-2 litres is recommended for most adults, but you might need to drink more if you are exercising or it is very hot.

When a client really does need to curtail sodium intake, I recommend they start by increasing

potassium in their diet and cutting back on processed foods like ready meals and prepared sauces. If this does not bring down blood pressure sufficiently, then here are my top 5 easy ways to reduce salt intake:

1. Check food labels. Salt is found in many manufactured foods, because it is a preservative and is used to prolong shelf life.

2. Don't add salt to cooking water.

3. Take the salt cellar off the table.

4. If you must have salt, try a low-salt alternative that contains potassium chloride.

5. Cut down on smoked or pickled foods. Salt is used in both smoking and pickling.

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