Why Do I Like Adding So Much Salt in My Food?
Did you know that food manufacturers have a standard called Bliss Point? There is an optimal concentration for every food item at which sensory pleasure is at its maximum. This bliss point pretty much decides what we eat and drink and how much. So, until the bliss point is reached, the more the salt, the happier we are. For some people, a little salt makes everything better. Except, of course, our health. On average, Indians consume way too much salt. A new study reveals that we’re consuming nearly 50 percent more salt than we should every day.
Why Do We Like Salt So Much?
Restaurant foods like burgers contain lots of salt Credits: Needpix
We know that salt makes our food compelling, tastier, and leaves us wanting more.
Several food items in grocery stores have salt loaded as a core ingredient, like in bread or meats. Sometimes they are loaded as a layered ingredient too.
Regularly consuming too much salt can increase blood pressure, leading to diabetes.
So, we are often advised to limit our salt intake. However, it can be tough to overcome those salt cravings. Also, salt affects some people more than others. There is a science behind this.
Researchers have discovered that specific neurons in the brain control both our urge to eat salt and how our blood pressure changes in response.
When we consume food rich in salt, our taste buds in the tongue send a signal to the lower part of our brain. The brain, in turn, stimulates the neurons.
The neurons in our brain are part of the endorphins or opioid circuitry. When we eat highly palatable foods, in other words, foods loaded with salt they enable the body to perceive a highly savouring experience.
They also found that after several days of taking salt at higher levels, participants developed high blood pressure.
Apart from sensory pleasure, our food patterns are also determined by our history of personal experiences.
What we ate during our childhood can strongly influence us. If the circumstances around eating a savouring food item are pleasant, it usually becomes an emotional experience which gets stored in our memory.
When we recall that food, it stimulates desire.
Other causes for salt cravings include lack of sleep, excessive sweating, stress, boredom or premenstrual syndrome.
Why is Too Much Salt Bad?
Kidneys are important for regulating our blood pressure. They remove water from our blood. However, too much salt in our blood pulls the water back in, making it stay in the blood, thus contributing to high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a big risk factor for heart and circulatory conditions like diabetes. Over time our blood vessels have to work harder to confront the increasing pressure.
This makes the walls of the vessels thicker, decreasing the amount of space for blood to flow through, further increasing our blood pressure. It can also cause swelling in the feet and other health issues.
Caption: Global prevalence of diabetes. Credits: Commons wikimedia
How Much Salt Should We Consume?
Current guidelines say that an individual should eat less than 6 grams of salt or roughly about a teaspoon’s worth per day.
This includes the amount of salt we add to our food while cooking and the salt already present in our meals (that we don’t think about), such as in things like sauces and bread.
For instance, just 2 slices of bread can equate to 1 gram of salt. An average adult usually consumes about 8 grams per day, which is way too much.
Consuming high amounts of salt can increase our blood pressure. So, we must try to control how much is in our diet.
Caption: Pepper is a good substitute for salt. . Credits: Commons wikimedia
To cut back on salt without losing the flavour, give ingredients like black pepper, garlic, citrus-rich foods and kinds of vinegar a try.