Salt is a biological necessity of human life
Posted on October 12th, 2014

Dr Hector Perera          London

Foods with salt

But we live our daily lives practically unaware of this basic biological fact. The flavour-enhancing ability of salt is probably its best recognised quality today. Salt became a highly valued commodity from the Bronze Age, if not earlier, as its uses expanded to food preservation, leather tanning, cloth dyeing and medicine (Kurlansky, 2003). The only facts we are aware are that salt increases blood pressure and similar ideas only. Most of our food already has salt added to it, check the labels on almost any prepared food in the house. If you buy precooked food from supermarkets or from restaurants or takeaways, I am sure they have already added salt. There are far too many salt added food we eat and buy for example cheese, ham, bacon, sausages, some biscuits, salami, salt fish, canned fish, baked beans, soya source, bread and bread products, cakes and pastries, even some breakfast cereals and nearly all cooking sources are added with salt. Most foods contain sodium, especially root vegetables.  Most people eat bananas or oranges to get potassium, but it is also found in avocado, apricots, blackstrap molasses, nutritional yeast, dates and figs, garlic, potato, and brown rice, and celery. This is not the end of the list but far too many to mention here and you still want to add more salt to your food?

UK supermarkets have Sri Lankan food

Have I got to mention some of the Sri Lankan food in your local and supermarkets? Unlike in the past now some supermarkets have a section called world foods and I am one of them to go there occasionally. That section is just like a Sri Lankan food shop, bottled, canned and packets of food including the spicy ingredients are there. Back home the dry fish market in Negombo sells all kinds of dry fish including, Jardi” that is nothing but too salty dry fish but a tasty dry fish. In any local town there are at least one or two Sri Lankan shops and they sell all these kinds of food.

All our body fluids are salty

Without salt, our bodies become chemically unbalanced, our muscles and nervous system cease to function. Blood, sweat, tears, saliva and the general consensus among experts is that a healthy adult should aim towards a daily intake of five or six grams of salt to maintain a good balance but the problem is some people exceed the limit then problems start. That means around one levelled teaspoon of salt not a one scoop of polkatuhanda”.

If you are under the impression that salt is just another way to decrease your health and add to your waistline, then you should know there are benefits to adding a little salt to your diet, yes a pinch of it. Salt plays a role in water retention, muscle contraction, and contains nutrients that are vital to your stomach. Salt in moderation is actually very important to your diet. 

Cooking vapour is not just water vapour

No wonder all Sri Lankan ladies keep on tasting the curries several times to make sure there is enough salt in the gravy. One thing they don’t realise is the more number of times they open, stir and taste the salt in the curries, during this process lots of chemical ingredients in the vapour form just evaporate and some of it very likely to get deposited on them, Who cares”? You mean the vapour is just water vapour no other chemicals in it? After cooking, if they walk about, very likely to carry the smell with them, can I say it smells like a mobile kitchen! Why not check the wall or kitchen cupboard near the cooker. That means just run the finger on the wall or the kitchen cupboard near the cooker. You would find those surfaces are oily and sticky that means they came from cooking vapours. Is that possible some of those vapours might got deposited on you while stirring the curries? The smell can vary, if it was chicken, I call it chicken cologne and curry cologne if it was just a curry. One thing our British chefs are worse than our kussi amma” style of cooking. These chefs purposely set fire to cooking aroma to impress the audience, who says its normal cooking? Who would learn anything by that kind of cooking?

Saline has salt

The most common use for saline solution is to clear the sinuses, helps to rinse contact lenses. Just make sure it’s safe and appropriate for whatever means you want to use it for.

Saline solution is a mixture of sodium chloride, or salt, and sterile water. It is available in several concentrations, but the most common one is 0.9% sodium chloride in water. It’s typically used for medical purposes, and is found in intravenous (IV) drips, contact lens solution, and nasal irrigation sprays. In addition to this, it’s often used in chemistry experiments. Even some good olden kitchens used to have a strong saline solution in lunu polkatta” but not anymore.

Medical Uses of saline

There are a wide variety of medical uses for saline solution, ranging from rehydration to wound care. One of the most common uses is in IV drips for those who are dehydrated from severe vomiting or diarrhoea or are unable to eat. In these situations, the fluid is typically mixed with sugars like dextrose or glucose. This helps prevent complications and also helps reduce the amount of sodium circulating through the patient’s body. Otherwise, side effects from too much sodium such as an increased heart rate or convulsions could occur.

Other medical purposes for saline solution include rinsing and safe storage of contact lenses, as well as nasal irrigation and wound care.

Saline solution refers to a salt solution, which you can prepare yourself using readily available materials. The solution can be used as a disinfectant, sterile rinse, or for lab work. This recipe is for a salt solution that iso-normal, which means it is the same concentration or isotonic to body fluids. The salt in saline solution discourages bacterial growth while rinsing away contaminants. Because the salt composition is similar to that of the body, it causes less tissue damage than you would get from pure water.

 

Salt Helps Retain Water in the Body

Our bodies rely on electrolytes, including salt, to help carry out electrical impulses that control many of our bodies’ functions. To keep our bodies functioning as they should, our bodies need the proper amount of electrolytes. Electrolytes trigger thirst mechanism, which cause us to consume adequate amounts of water. With this water, our kidneys are able to keep the appropriate amount of electrolytes in our bloodstream. The amount of water our bodies retain also impact blood pressure. Think about it, a lot of bars and restaurants provide complimentary salty snacks. Why? They make you thirsty and wanting to purchase more drinks!

Salt Stimulates Muscle Contraction

Salt is important to the nerves, as it stimulates muscle contraction; this will also help prevent your muscles from cramping. Salt also keeps calcium and other minerals in the bloodstream. It also stimulates the adrenal glands. Salt is also very important in the prevention of heat prostration and sunstroke, which is very important to remember during hot summer months. Fortunately Sri Lanka has hot sun almost throughout the year, no wonder it has become a popular tourist destination. If anyone really wants to get away from hot sun why not go to places like Kandy and Bandarawela.

Salt Contains Nutrients Vital to the Digestive System

Salt plays a primary role in the processes of digestion and absorption. Salt activates an enzyme in the mouth called salivary amylase. At this point, the salt allows your taste buds to taste the food. Salt also plays a role in digestion by helping to break down food. Salt also creates hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is a very important digestive secretion, which lines the stomach walls. Salt actually helps your body digest food, rather than trying to eat itself.

A Lack of Salt Is Dangerous

A sodium deficiency is a health condition where a body fails to receive an adequate supply of sodium. Sodium deficiency can become extremely prevalent in excessive temperatures, which cause the body to perspire heavily and patterns of dehydration will set in. Sodium deficiency can lead to shock if the blood pressure is decreased too severely. Salt is important to good nutritional status. Too little can cause disturbances in tissue-water and acid-base balance, which is important to good nutrition.

Remember, diets too high in sodium can lead to high water retention and hypertension. Overall, salt is generally nontoxic to adults, provided it is excreted properly. The maximum amount of sodium that should be incorporated into a healthy diet should range from 2,400-3,000 mg/day that is not too much.

Do we get too much salt?

In some cases they get far too much salt in the daily food. We are aware that too much salt cause high blood pressure, water retention causing swelling, kidney problems then heart problems and the list goes on. Most medical advice is to get low salt diet that is because we get far too much salt from food, with or without our knowledge.

Unlike in the past less salt is required for food preservation but now fridges and freezers do the job.

The human brain and spine are in a sack of dilute salt solution called cerebrospinal fluid [CSF]. We spent approximately 9 months in our mothers belly floating in salt water called amniotic fluid. Not just humans but all warm blooded animals must have salt to live. The tears and sweat and urine have salt.

Hydrochloric acid or HCl is required in the stomach for digestion and the human body is able to split sodium chloride to make HCl required for digestion. Our body uses sodium chloride as salt to keep the brain, spine, teeth, sweat glands, organs and blood topped off with salt. Too much salt is absolutely bad, it can cause swelling and diarrhoea more damage to the body, so watch out.
Sodium, potassium and chloride are electrolytes that dissolve in water and carry electrical charges anywhere there is water in the body. These electrically charged minerals can freely move into a cell and back out again carrying nutrients in and out and removing waste products and excess water as to keep the cell balanced. At the same time as these electrolytes move in and out of the cells making their exchanges, a delicate balance of potassium inside the cell must be maintained with a special amount of sodium chloride to hold the potassium in the centre of the cell.

Electrolytes are found in all fluids of the body and carry impulses along your nerves. This helps your muscles, like the heart and diaphragm to contract and relax. Electrolytes carry glucose [blood sugar] into the cell after insulin opens the door or gate for the sugar to be taken in. If a person loses too many of these electrolytes from having diarrhoea or by taking water pills [diuretic] they can become very sick then they must go to the hospital and receive IVs of saline [salt water], dextrose [sugar water] and minerals. Your comments are welcomed [email protected]

One Response to “Salt is a biological necessity of human life”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    DR. HECTOR PERERA !!

    I was watching on Youtube, many people presenting Sri Lankan recipies. I do not think that they are presented from Sri Lanka. They are showing, pouring Canola Oil for frying, opening imported Coconut Milk Cans, etc

    I thought I will bring to your notice something very important. It really disturbs me. I see them using PLASIC LADLES on boiling oil, which I think is about 400 degrees Centigrade at that point. Plastic can dissolve into the Food that they are preparing, and it can lead to Cancer. Please correct me if I am wrong. What is the regulatory body that can prevent cooking presentations like that on Youtube. ?

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