Salt is an essential nutrient. Sodium is an electrolyte, one of several minerals required by the body to regulate fluids. It also plays a role in maintaining the acid-base balance of blood and helps nutrients cross cell membranes.
Too much salt?
Too much salt intake is believed to be a health risk. However, recent studies have drawn attention to the role of the intrauterine environment of fetuses in the growth of babies and the development of diseases in adulthood. Not enough salt during pregnancy can have an adverse effect on the fetus and newborn baby. Salt is one of the integral components for normal growth of fetuses and there has been an increasing number of studies suggesting that salt restriction during pregnancy has a critical influence on the intrauterine growth and development of organs of fetuses. Salt restriction during pregnancy is connected to the following:
- Intrauterine growth restriction IUGR
- Fetal and neonatal death
- Low birth weight
- Organ underdevelopment
- Dysfunction in adulthood probably through a gene-mediated mechanism
Salt should not be removed from your diet to treat certain normal pregnancy conditions such as swelling. Some swelling during pregnancy is normal and in fact, desired. If your swelling is of concern, you should talk to your doctor and see if anything needs to be done, such as eating more healthy foods and making sure you are getting enough protein and water.
Salt your food to taste
During pregnancy and lactation, a woman's sodium metabolism (utilization) is altered by hormone activity. As a result, sodium needs are slightly higher for women at this time. Still, most women get plenty of sodium naturally in a typical diet and there is rarely a need for additional salt use. Americans typically consume 4,000-8,000 mg each day, well above their daily needs. A goal for moderation for all adults, including pregnancy and lactation is approximately 1,500 mg of sodium per day. One teaspoon of salt has 2300 mg of sodium.