Dietary salt is essential for the functioning of our body because it is rich in sodium, a mineral that helps to maintain the water content and the pH balance of our body. Salt is also essential during pregnancy, as it helps ensure the amount of fluid needed for the baby to develop. But excess salt intake by pregnant women can cause problems.
Why is salt intake important during pregnancy?
- Without salt, your nerves, muscles and organs would not function properly.
- During pregnancy, body fluids are increased to support the baby’s growth and sodium plays an important role in this.
- The presence of iodine in table salt is crucial for the development of the fetal brain and nervous system.
Iodine deficiency during pregnancy can be the cause of stillbirth (death in utero), abnormal brain development, miscarriage, and other complications. One study further found that insufficient salt intake during pregnancy resulted in low birth weight. Avoid iodine supplements, however, as they can be harmful to the unborn child.
What is the right amount?
During pregnancy, salt is therefore essential, but in reasonable quantities. Daily intake should be at least 3.75g with an upper limit of 6g. Too much consumption could cause unwanted effects.
- Water retention
- Swollen ankles, legs, feet or face
- High blood pressure or preeclampsia
- Loss of calcium (via urination)
Many processed foods and ready meals contain high amounts of salt. Even some sweet-tasting foods contain more salt than you might think. It is best to always read the label of a product to check its salt content.
Instead, opt for fresh, cooked foods. Some healthy sources of sodium include unsalted nuts, poultry, fish, fruit, plain yogurt, eggs, milk and vegetables.