Salt a FRIEND or FOE?

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Salt: It’s got a deliciously negative reputation. We’re told that we’re eating too much of it — and it seems like various health problems it cause. But the truth is, salt intake is vital for the body to function properly, especially during pregnancy. Problems can arise, though, when we go overboard…and with today’s processed foods, it’s easier to do than ever. But by paying careful attention to what you eat, you can keep your sodium consumption on track.

Salt is essential to your health throughout pregnancy. It maintains your body fluid level, which helps your baby, develop properly. However, too much salt can be harmful.

Salt: keeping your body in balance

During pregnancy, your body fluid levels change to support your developing baby. Salt plays an important role in helping to regulate and maintain your body fluid. It is used by all of the cells in your body to function properly, and it is also needed to transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

The well-documented problem with high salt intake is its effect on blood pressure. Salt affects the kidneys, causing the body to retain water. This extra fluid results in greater blood volume, which causes blood pressure to rise.

A low salt diet during pregnancy can help to keep blood pressure within a healthy range, reducing the risks of stroke and heart problems, as well as other serious diseases and conditions.

How much salt is safe during pregnancy?

Your salt requirement during pregnancy is the same as it would normally be. Many people unknowingly eat more than the recommended maximum, because salt is added to so many manufactured foods. A staggering 75-80% of our salt intake is hidden in ready-prepared or processed food and food bought from takeaways and restaurants. Look out for foods like crisps, bacon, salted options for items like nuts, as well as many seemingly healthy foods such as pasta sauces, soup and sandwiches.

If your salt intake is already within the daily limit, you shouldn’t need to adjust your diet where salt is concerned. But if you suspect your intake might be higher, it’s a good idea to track your daily levels by checking nutrition labels for salt or sodium content.

Too much or too little salt intake during pregnancy can negatively affect your sodium levels. As with other nutrients, pregnant women need more sodium than non-pregnant women. While over-indulging in table salt can be harmful, you must be sure you are satisfying your body’s needs. Speak with your doctor concerning the amount of sodium that’s right for your particular situation.

Maintain a healthy salt intake during pregnancy by:

  • Checking salt levels on pre-packed food.
  • Reducing the amounts of ham, bacon, salami, cheese and soya you use when cooking, as they are all high in salt
  • Choosing retailers own brands that often have less added salt
  • Being wary of sweet foods such as biscuits, which also contain salt
  • Checking restaurant menus for hidden salty foods
  • Tasting your food before seasoning – you might not need salt

Let’s pledge to break-up with excess sodium and start living healthier.