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Salt & Balanced Diet
History of salt
Salt has been present in our diet since the Neolithic period (6000 BC), when it was used for preserving food. Then in Ancient Egypt, it was used for salting or pickling fish.
In Ancient Rome, soldiers and officers received a quantity of salt for their activity, which was later replaced by money - hence the word "salary".
Salt also made it possible to transport delicate foodstuffs in other territories lacking in resources.
Biochemistry of salt
Salt is a combination of 40% chloride (Cl) and 60% sodium (Na), resulting in sodium chloride (NaCl).
1 gram of salt is equivalent to 400mg of sodium.
Salt is part of the mineral family.
Salt in our bodies and physiological actions
Sodium and potassium are inseparable: potassium is inside the cells, and sodium on the outside.
It helps to regulate all the cell functions, including the transmission of nervous impulses, and the heart and muscle functions.
Sodium is also essential in regulating our body water content: we have around 55% to 60% of water in our bodies. It participates in the maintenance of volemy (blood volume) and the hydration of the extracellular environment.
When we consume salt, it is absorbed through the digestive tract and enters the blood. Surplus sodium is filtered by the kidneys and eliminated in the urine. Sodium is also excreted when we sweat.
Blood pressure means the pressure of the blood in the arteries. Sodium enables stable blood pressure
High blood pressure (HBP) is persistent increased blood pressure in the arteries. We talk about high blood pressure when the figures measured by your doctor in centimetres of mercury are higher than14/9 (140/90 mmHg) : 14 (140 mmHG) in systolic pressure (when the heart contracts) and 9 (90 mmHG) in diastolic pressure (after the heart has contracted).
The taste of salt
Saltiness is classified as one of the four basic gustatory sensations of the palate: salt, sweet, acid and bitter.
The body's salt requirements
The homeostasy of NaCl in the body requires a minimum daily intake of around 1 to 2g.
AFSSA (the French food safety agency) rules that salt intake should not exceed 6-8g of salt per day maximum.
The daily consumption of salt in France is on average about 10g per day.
However, regional studies have revealed that 20% of the population have a daily salt consumption higher than12g.
Effects of overconsumption
Excess salt can have a detrimental effect on the blood pressure, and can also play a harmful role in the etiology of cardiovascular diseases.
Action of salt on foodstuffs
It is an excellent preservation agent for cooked meats, marinades, cheeses and fish.
Salt stabilizes the colour, flavour and texture of food.
It also controls the development of food yeasts contained in bread, cakes and biscuits.
What salt contributes
30% of salt comes from the salt we add (from the salt cellar) depending on our eating habits, during the cooking or preparation of food.
The remaining 70% will be provided by our diet: the foodstuffs and food products (4 to 6g of salt per day) that we consume.
Salt in our food
A few sources of sodium
In a balanced diet, you should limit your consumption of pre-cooked meals and commercial cereal products, large quantities of cheese, cooked meats, cocktail biscuits, canned foods, commercial sauces (salad dressings, stock cubes, soy sauce, etc.) and highly mineralised sparkling waters (Vichy, Badoit, San Pellegrino, etc.).
With regard to certain pathologies (cardiac and kidney diseases, high blood pressure, etc.) or treatments (corticotherapy), your doctor will ask you to reduce your intake of salt and salty products.
Product labelling and regulations on salt
Food products presented as being intended for low-salt diets are subject to the provisions of the French Order of 24 January 1975.
These foods must be put on sale under a name including the phrase "low sodium" or "reduced sodium". The sodium content may not exceed 120mg of sodium per 100g of product.
This phrase may be replaced by the expression "highly reduced sodium" or "very low sodium content" if the sodium content does not exceed 40 mg per100 g of food ready for consumption.
Pay attention to the details of ingredients that contain salt: monosodium glutamate, brine, sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda (also called baking soda), baking powder and soy sauce.
Above all, these products must be used with your doctor's agreement.
These sodium substitutes often contain potassium or magnesium. However, be careful not to use a substitute containing sodium iodide, which is a derivative of sodium salt.
Salt in the Dukan Method
The whole method is based on natural, fresh foods
The recipes make it possible to prepare tasty cooking with no added salt through the use of herbs, condiments, spices and flavouring, thus providing an exceptionally pleasurable taste experience: dill, garlic, basil, cinnamon, cardamom, chervil, chives, lemon, lemon grass, cloves, cumin, curry, shallots, tarragon, ginger, bay leaves mint, nutmeg, onions, parsley, oregano, paprika, chilli, pepper, curry powder, rosemary, saffron, savory, sage, thyme, vanilla, vinegar, etc.
If you want to use a little salt in your dishes, use sea salts or kosher salt, which have a stronger taste, meaning that you can reduce the quantity.
If you suffer from water retention, here is some advice from Pierre Dukan: «Drink less: no more than one litre for 4 days; avoid eating food that is too salty, like smoked salmon and thinly-sliced dried beef »