You'd be surprised at how many hidden salts there are in the foods we eat. Good to know: a teaspoon of salt a day is pretty much our recommended daily limit – but most of us easily exceed that limit.

Salt is meant to enhance the flavour of food while also acting as a preservative. It contains chloride and sodium. Almost all unprocessed foods are low in sodium, including vegetables, fruit, nuts, meats, wholegrains and dairy products. The salt we do eat, helps muscles to relax and contract and assists in the transmission of nerve impulses and the balance of minerals and water in the body.

If you season everything you eat with salt, you’re definitely consuming too much sodium during the day. It’s also good to know that sodium lurks in many foods we eat, so your salt intake may already be too high.

The American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of no more than 2300 mg and a goal of no more than 1500 mg. Excess salt intake can result in many side effects, including the following.

High blood pressure 

Your kidneys are responsible for any changes in blood pressure. Too much salt makes it more difficult for them to efficiently eliminate waste fluid. As a result: your blood pressure rises.

Water retention

Do you constantly feel bloated and puffy with swollen fingers or hands? This could, again, be triggered by excess salt. It happens because your kidneys need to maintain a specific sodium-to-water ratio in your body. To accomplish this, the kidneys retain extra water to offset the extra sodium you consumed. This increased water retention can cause swelling, especially in the hands and feet, and even add to the numbers on your scale. Handy tip: weigh yourself the morning after a day of eating unhealthy foods and you’ll notice a side effect of an extra kilo or two. Hello, salt bloat!

You’re always thirsty

Drinking enough water is always a win – but if you’re constantly thirsty and have a dry mouth – that’s a good indication that you’re eating too much salt. As your body draws water from your cells, you may become extremely thirsty. Water can help to neutralise the salt in your body and refresh your cells.

Constant bathroom runs

Salt affects fluid levels in your body, bringing on extreme thirst, but once the thirst is satisfied, the body responds by sending you straight to the toilet to help filter out the excess salt. So, if you're urinating frequently throughout the day and drinking lots of water because you're thirsty, salt is the culprit.

Craving salty food

When you become accustomed to the taste of salty foods, your body adjusts and adapts to the flavour, and you begin to crave more of the same satisfying flavour. Start reducing the amount of salt gradually by salting at the table instead of in the pot, or use herbs instead of salt. 

Keep your salt levels in check:

  • Choose fresh meats over pre-packaged ones.
  • When buying frozen vegetables, look for those that are "fresh frozen" and avoid packets with seasonings or ready-made sauces. 
  • Compare the sodium content of the foods you buy by reading the labels.
  • Look for spices and seasonings that are free from sodium. 
  • If you're eating out, you can request that your meal be prepared without salt.



This article is for informational purposes only. Always check with your doctor or medical practitioner about any health concerns, before embarking on any fitness or nutrition programme or using any medication.