When Bollywood producer Boney Kapoor recently confessed that his wife and actor Sridevi, who passed away in 2018, used to have frequent blackouts possibly due to a low salt diet, many couldn't help wondering. Why would anyone remove salt from their diet? As 'losing weight' is considered an achievement, you will hear many diet fads doing their rounds on the internet and social media, not to forget the 'helpful suggestions' from concerned relatives.
Low sodium diet, raw food diet and fruit diet are the 'in-thing.' But they also considerably lower the salt intake for those who follow these diets. Yes, they might lower the numbers on your weighing scale, but are they healthy in the long run?
“According to the World Health Organization, 5gm of added salt is recommended for a healthy adult. We say added salt because salt enters our diet through eggs, leafy vegetables and the like, as well. The 5gms is the salt we should add extra to our food items," says Kochi-based dietician Dr Mumtaz Khalid Ismail. "Unless one has some health conditions, for which she can probably lower the salt levels under the strict supervision of doctors and dieticians, it's important that we include the recommended salt levels in our diet,” she adds.
Striking a balance
Electrolyte imbalance, hyponatremia (the condition of low sodium level in a human body), disorientation, muscle cramps, exhaustion, malfunctioning of organs... a whole host of health issues can hit us if we avoid the recommended level of salt in our daily diet. “A normal healthy individual does not have to restrict salt in their diet. For the proper functioning of the body, 5gm of salt is essential,” says the dietician.
At the same time, many studies in Kerala show that people here use twice the amount of salt! Dr Mumtaz explains: “Some people use 10 to 12gm of salt, which is unhealthy. This happens when people add extra salt to their curries, consume pickles, and papadams and sprinkle additional tablesalts into their food regularly.”
And if they consume junk food on a regular basis, the extra sodium added to the ingredients will also have to be taken into account. She says high salt levels can result in conditions like hypertension, various kidney ailments and hypernatremia.
Follow a balanced diet
It's not healthy to restrict our diet to one particular food type, warns the dietitian. The dietary guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Nutrition specify that we should blend all food groups like 'cereals, millets and pulses,' 'vegetables and fruits,' 'milk and milk products, egg, meat and fish,' 'oil and fats and nuts and oilseeds,' for proper nutrition. “A balanced diet is what you require to lead a healthy life,” she adds.