benefits, harms, how much max?

Table or cooking salt is essentially composed of sodium chloride. It is necessary for the functioning of the body. However, consuming it in excess can promote the development of certain diseases. The point with Maiwenn Le Goff, dietician.

Definition: what is edible salt?

Salt has been known since the dawn of time for its food preservation and seasoning properties. Edible salt is obtained after refining and serves as a condiment, in the same way as pepper. He enhances the taste of food. It comes from theevaporation of sea water in salt marshes or extracted from underground deposits formed by the ancient evaporation of seas. In France, the best-known salt marshes are those of Guérande, Aigues-Mortes or those of Salin-de-Giraud. It is known by several names: food salt, table, mine or cooking salt.explains Maiwenn Le Goff, dietitian. On the one hand there is the refined salt which has been cleaned by a chemical process of all impurities but also of all the minerals and trace elements that it naturally contains. It comes out small whitened crystals soupoudrable. And on the other side, unrefined salt has not undergone any treatment. He is natural“. In the category of sea salts, there are still different products: fine sea salt and coarse salt which are white sea salts, gray salt, or fleur de sel which forms on the surface of salt marshes.

What is the composition of food salt?

“Edible salt consists almost entirely of chlorine and sodium. It also contains, in very small proportion, other minerals. It is the primary source of sodium in the dietsays the dietitian. It can be enriched with iodine or fluorine”. In 1 gram of salt there is 600 mg of chloride and 400 mg of sodiumhence the name sodium chloride.

What are the benefits of salt?

“From an organoleptic point of view, salt enhances the taste of what you eatto increase the food preservation, and limit the multiplication of micro-organisms“, adds our interlocutor. Besides that, salt is necessary for the functioning of the body. “The minerals it contains, sodium and chloride, for example, contribute to the transmission of nerve signals and muscle contraction. The sodium contained in the salt also enters the formation of bone tissue and is needed with potassium, to body water balance (maintenance of plasma volume)”.

What are the harms and dangers of salt?

Salt can have harmful effects on health, particularly in increasing blood pressure and the development of cardiovascular diseases.people suffering fromhigh blood pressure, heart failure or diabetesare particularly susceptible to the negative effects of salt“, warns the dietitian.

What are the risks of excessive salt consumption?

Excess salt consumption is now recognized as one of the risk factors for high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseaseas well as other diseases, including stomach cancer. Excessive consumption could promote the urinary elimination of calcium and thus promote osteoporosisa disease causing the weakening of the bones and which can promote the appearance of fractures. Especially in the elderly“, emphasizes our specialist. Long-term overconsumption of sodium also leads to many complications, in the kidneys since who have the difficult task of eliminating excess salt and water from the blood.

How much salt can you eat per day?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), for adults it is recommended to do not consume more than 5g of salt per day (the equivalent of a teaspoon of salt) to prevent cardiovascular disease. “But we would consume 8 to 11 grams of salt per day on average, twice the maximum recommended intake. And this despite the fact that, since the 2000s, the average salt intake of the adult population has decreased, as has the proportion of high salt consumers, i.e. individuals whose consumption is greater than 12 g/ I“, adds the dietician. Reducing salt intake is indeed a flagship objective of successive National Health Nutrition Programs. PNNS 3 (2011-2015) thus sets a goal of reducing salt consumption in the population to reach in 2015 an average consumption of:

  • 8 g/day in adult men ;
  • 6.5 g/day in adult women and children.

In children aged 3 to 17, the average salt consumption is 5.9 g/d in boys and 5.0 g/d in girls, with variations according to age. “To these contributions, coming from the food consumed, it is necessary to add 1 to 2 grams of salt/d, due to the salting of the dishes and the cooking water by the consumer himself“, recognizes Maiwenn Le Goff. One of the first measures aimed at improving the food supply included in the PNNS4 (2019-2023) involves the reduction of salt consumption by 30%, by acting first on the painwhich represents nearly 25% of the daily salt intake of the French. Note that the deficiencies in salt intake are extremely rare.

“It’s necessary favor unrefined, natural saltrather than bleached refined salt which has lost all its minerals and trace elements“, advises our dietician. Regarding the size of the salt, it all depends on the use that we have of it: “For the cooking water, you will preferably use coarse salt and to season your dishes, fine sea salt. Fleur de sel, extracted by hand and rich in minerals and 100% natural, is also interesting for its more iodized flavor.

According to ANSES (National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety), additional actions are necessary to reduce salt intake. In fact, the decreases in salt intake of the population are partly attributable to reductions in the salt content of foodsobtained within the framework of commitment charters signed between manufacturers and the public authorities. It is therefore recommended that consumers limit their consumption of the most salty foods (cold meats, cheeses, industrial products, bread and crackers), to consult the labels to guide their food choices and to limit the addition of salt during preparation and during meals. Given French eating habits, most of the salt consumed comes in France from bread and rusks, then from the charcuterie, cheeses and industrial products (condiments and sauces, ready meals, soups, soups and broths, as well as quiches and pizzas). Indeed, even if sodium is naturally found in various foods, such as milk, meat and shellfish, it is often present in large quantities in processed foods.

70 to 80% of the salt content consumed comes from industrial products

In Europe, around 70-80% of the salt content consumed is hidden in manufactured foods or other food industry products. The remaining amount, 20 to 30%, is added during meals. And Maiwenn Le Goff adds: “1g of salt, i.e. 1/5th of the recommended quantity of 5g per day not to be exceeded, is:

  • A slice of sausage
  • A handful of crackers
  • 1 pastry
  • 20g raw ham
  • A bowl of soup
  • 80g of bread
  • A slice of pizza
  • 40g of cheese.

Maiwenn Le Goff offers us some tips:

  • Do not put a salt shaker on the table
  • Do not add salt during food preparation
  • Limit the consumption of salty foods
  • Enhance the taste with herbs and spices and herbs
  • Prioritize the “home made”
  • Eliminate commercial prepared meals
  • Choose fresh meat and fish or commercially frozen uncooked
  • Prioritize home cooking (soup, pastries, pie, cake, etc.)
  • Rinse canned vegetables as soon as possible or favor fresh, frozen or uncooked vegetables and starches.
  • Prioritize the bread and crackers without salt (or reduce the quantities)
  • Prioritize the fresh cheese, cottage cheese, salt-free cheese or Emmental
  • Privilege tap waterstill water or slightly salty sparkling water: Salvetat, Perrier
  • look at the nutrition facts table before buying a product. The sodium content is well indicated.

Thanks to Maiwenn Le Goff, dietician at Saveurs et Vie, and graduate in nutri-health.

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