Is Your Daily Salt Intake Causing Headaches?
A heavy amount of salt in our day-to-day diet has, for many years, been linked to causing problems with the heart. Medical scientists have proved that a lot of salt each day can lead to developing high blood pressure, hypertension and heart disease. But now research is suggesting too much of the salty stuff could be bad for our heads too and cause more misery in the form of headaches.
Research led by John Hopkins University in the US suggests too much salt may actually trigger headaches. The study, which involved 400 people, showed that going from an intake of 8g (grams) to 4g a day caused a 31% reduction in headaches. Therefore, it concludes that cutting our salt intake could, in fact, reduce headaches by a third.
Before you decide to go and throw away the table salt in your kitchens cupboards, it is important to know that our bodies actually do need the stuff. The UK Salt Association even goes as far to say that we need it to function, with it playing a crucial role in the functionality of our bodies. The association says every gram of salt is made up from 40% sodium and 60% chlorine. Both of these play a “vital” role in keeping our bodies functioning. This means too little salt could perhaps be as bad for our health as too much. If we dramatically reduce our intake, “it could be damaging,” the UK Salt Association’s website says. “Extremely low levels of salt can even be fatal.”
Recent reports suggest that it is in fact sugar, not salt, which may be more responsible for causing high blood pressure and heart disease – see The Best of Health article: Sugar Could Contribute More to High Blood Pressure than Salt.
But regardless of whether or not its effects are worse than sugar, according to Blood Pressure UK, too much salt in your daily diet is, quite simply, bad for your health. It can raise your blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and puts strain on your brain, which can lead to a stroke. Blood Pressure UK says salt works on your kidneys to make your body hold more water. This extra stored water “raises your blood pressure and puts strain on your kidneys, arteries, heart and brain.”
Salt in Processed Foods
Most of the sodium contained in salt is obtained from pre-packaged and processed foods in which it is often added as a preservative and flavouring. This includes bread, pasta, white rice and tinned meat, as well as convenience foods, such as pizza, breakfast cereals and pre-cooked and frozen dinners.
The NHS says 75% of the salt we eat comes from processed foods. Recent reports have found that pizzas and processed sauces from UK leading supermarkets contain “shockingly” high levels of salt. The group CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health), which is concerned with salt and its effects on health and is supported by scientific experts, conducted a survey looking at selected pizza. The results showed the pizzas contained more than the recommended 6g maximum limit for our daily salt intake.
Sonia Pombo, nutritionist at CASH, says: “Most of us aren’t aware of how much salt we actually eat on a daily basis, and the danger we are putting ourselves in. With three-quarters of our salt intakes coming from processed foods such as pizza, how are any of us able to choose a healthier diet?”
Controlling Your Daily Salt Intake to Control Your Headaches
It seems, when it comes to salt, you really can’t do right for doing wrong. Too much will lead to high blood pressure and heart problems, while with too little, well, simple put, you can’t properly function. The NHS recommends our daily salt consumption should not exceed 6g of salt per day. This is probably easier said than done, as it can be hard to keep track of measuring our salt intake through the day. The solution is to just control your daily salt intake as best you can.
A good way to avoid excessive amounts of salt in your daily diet is to make your own food as often as possible. A very small percentage of your daily salt intake will come from homemade foods, so, when doing the weekly shop, buy plenty of fresh foods, such as meat, fish and vegetables.
If you do buy pre-packed and tinned food, the products will be labelled to show the percentage of salt per 100g it contains. The government has also launched colour-coded labelling for food products, which are being used by all major supermarkets. The labelling system combines colour-coding, from red to green, with nutritional information, making it easier and quicker to check if a product contains high salt content.
CASH says on its website, the colour-coded labelling “makes it easy to see at a glance if a product is high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) in certain nutrients, including salt.”
If you would like to read more from the UK Salt Association or Consensus Action on Salt and Health , please click on the link.
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