Salt, that harmless little seasoning that makes everything that we eat taste flavourful, is not really as harmless as she seems. And while we go all out to talk down other (albeit artificial) seasonings such as MSG (monosodium glutamate), we rarely pay attention to the seasoning we use daily and with almost all the foods we eat.
We pay great attention to the food we eat when we want to lose weight or get healthier. We go completely bootcamp when it comes to watching out oils, processed foods, sugar and carbs, but rarely do we direct our efforts at reducing our salt intake. And this is all because of lack of awareness.
4-10 March each year, or the World Salt Week’ tries to put that spotlight on common, table salt, for excess sodium (from your sodium chloride) may be putting you and your family under increased health risk. A hidden health risk you never paid attention to while you were watching your calories, fat and sugar instead.
Salt & Its Health Risks
So you’ve been substituting your bag of crisps with home-baked veggies and your pizzas with salads, but have you don’t something about salt intake? According to the World Health Organization, your body needs about 5g or just one teaspoon of salt per day.
If you’ve been unknowingly taking more, your kidneys may be struggling to deal with the excess sodium. When this happens, your body retains more water to dilute the sodium and help your kidneys out. This, in turn, increases your blood volume and makes your heart and blood vessels work that much harder!
Higher salt intake is known to increase blood pressure and high blood pressure is the precursor to heart attacks and strokes, among other things. too much salt in your diet can also leave you with oedema (swelling of hands and feet due to water retention). It also increases your risks of intestinal and stomach cancers.
10 Easy Ways to Reduce Salt Intake
1. Use Alternate Flavourings
Did you know that you can create flavour with herbs and spices instead of salt? Herbst recommends using oregano, rosemary, chilli, curry powder, cayenne pepper, lemon, black pepper and onion and garlic powders to add flavour as you reduce your added salt. You can train your tastebuds thus, to relish less salty foods.
2. Watch For Hidden Salts
Read food labels properly. Try to opt for food brands or food products that offer low sodium choices.
3. Use Traditionally Salty Additives Sparingly
Soup stock, fish sauces, gravy cubes, etc. are generally quite salty. If you must use them, ensure that you use them sparingly. And even when you do, do not add more salt to the dish.
4. Double-Check While Buying Meat
When buying poultry or meat, check whether salt or salt water has been added to it. Choose the ‘no salt added’ varieties instead. If you buy canned fish such as tuna, wash the canned contents thoroughly before consuming them so as to remove all excess salt.
5. Avoid High-Salt Foods
Processed meats such as ham, bacon, smoked meats, etc are loaded with excess salts. Same goes for seafood such as anchovies. For vegetarians, the culprits are cheese, olives, pickles, yeast extracts, etc. Avoid such foods as much as possible.
6. Snack Differently
Lose the habit of snacking on salted nuts and crisps. Switch to celery and carrot sticks, or unsalted nuts, instead.
7. Discourage Adding Extra Salt
Ask your family members to taste the food before they decide to add extra salt to it. More often than not, adding salt to food is a habit rather than a requirement.
8. Check Your Supplements
If you strictly need to be off salt, check your effervescent supplements, especially if you like your Vitamin C and Magnesium effervescents. Most effervescent tablets and even some pain killers can contain up to 1g of salt per tablet and hence will require to to switch to ones that don’t.