Sodium and potassium work together to maintain blood pressure and proper water balance. Potassium also helps to regulate the amount of sodium in the body by increasing excretion when excess sodium is consumed.
A diet low in potassium and high in sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart diseases and stroke. World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults consume less than 5g (just under a teaspoon) of salt per day. This amount should, however, be reduced for children.
To maintain the balance:
• Reduce the amount of salt (sodium) you take. The foods we eat have sodium. These include processed foods like, bacon, ham and salami, cheese, salty snacks, condiments and instant noodles, which are, especially high in sodium. Good thing, these packaged foods have nutrition information on the pack. Read it and go easy on the ones with high sodium. Further, reduce the amount you use to cook. Then hide the salt shaker.
• Use spices and natural herbs to season. These offer a lot more health benefits besides helping to regulate salt use.
• Eat more of potassium rich foods. These include; beans, peas, beans, avocado, potatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, cabbage and spinach. Actually, fruits and vegetables tend to be good sources of potassium and they also provide fibre which plays an important role in maintain a healthy weight. Further, as food is processed, so is potassium lost.
• Do not take potassium supplements unless they are prescribed.
Clarifying misconceptions about salt
• You do not need more salt just because you sweat on a hot humid day.
• Sea salt is not healthier than any other salt.
• That food has no flavour without salt is relative. Your taste buds adapt to the amount of salt you take.
• Foods high in salt are not always salty.
• That you risk taking too little salt is very unlikely.