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How much salt do you need in a day?

 Salt contains iodine which helps prevent goitre (Photo: Shutterstock)

Salt is the most commonly used spice in every household. We use it in all our meals including baking bread. But as good as it is, too much salt is actually harmful for your health. It can lead to hypertension and also slows down your metabolism making losing weight even harder. 

Recommended sodium intake

The American Heart Association recommends at most 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day for adults and if possible, less than 1500 mg in a day. 

Unless your doctor advises so, you should not remove salt from your diet entirely because your body needs the iodine. Iodine helps prevent goitre which needs a small amount of sodium, about 500mg for normal functioning. If you’re worried about your health, using other alternatives instead of the common salt such as sea salt is quite a healthier option.

For you to know if you are consuming the right amounts of sodium, your health practitioner will be able to advise you depending on your health conditions and also your activity levels. Salt is excreted from the body when you sweat. If you are not exposed to high temperatures that lead to sweating or participate in vigorous physical activities on a day to day basis, such as working out, it’s important to maintain your salt intake to 1500mg a day. 

Salt intake also varies from age to age.

Here is what you need to know about salt requirements in a day according to age.

  • Newborns between zero to one year should eat less than 1g of salt in a day or avoid it completely. 

  • Kids between one and three years should not consume more than 2g of salt a day which is approximately 0.8 g of sodium.

  • Kids between 4-6 years should not consume more than 3g of salt a day which is 1.2 g of sodium.

  • Kids between 7-10 should not consume more than 5g of salt which is 2g of sodium.

  • Kids 11 years and above should not consume more than 6g of salt a day which is 2.4g of sodium in a day.

  • Adults should maintain less than 6g intake of salt in a day which is 2.4g of sodium.

If you feel like you have consumed too much salt in one day you should increase your water intake to avoid straining your kidney as it tries to break down the excess salt for excretion through your urine. 

That said below are some of the salt related terms you might find on food packaging which might help in monitoring your sodium intake.

  • Sodium free

  • This means that the food contains less than 5mg of sodium and contains zero sodium chloride which is the common salt.

  • Very low sodium

  • This indicates that the food contains less than 35mg of salt.

  • Low sodium

  • This indicates that the food contains less than 140 mg of salt.

  • Reduced sodium

  • This means that it contains less than 25% salt as compared to the normal servings.

  • Sodium reduced products

  • These products are usually low calorie and low-fat meals and the salt has been reduced by 50%.

  • Light sodium

  • This means that the salt is less than 50% of the normal amount.

    To ensure that kids below three years and adults on a special diet do not consume too much salt, it’s advisable to prepare their meals separately as they might also not be able to digest the spices we add to our food.

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