A Salty Matter
Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is made up of 40%
sodium and 60% chloride. Both, sodium and chloride are vital
minerals that are needed for healthy functioning of the human
body. But when consumed in excess, sodium has been closely
linked to stomach cancer, osteoporosis and high blood pressure.
Though experts are yet to discover how salt consumption is
linked to high blood pressure, they are sure that excess salt
increases the fluid content in our body. This in turn, causes the
heart to pump harder, thus raising blood pressure.
Are you eating too much salt? Indians consume a daily average of 10 to 15gm of salt instead
of the recommended 6gm (about a teaspoonful). Considering
our food habits, it’s all too easy to take in that extra salt without
even realizing it. Everyday foods like pickles, papads, sauces,
chutney, biscuits and baked products, cheese and preserved
foods like ham, bacon and packed soups are all high in sodium
(sodium in common salt is the main problem).
Our changing lifestyle often requires us to consume more
processed food, which ensures more salt in our diet than
ever before. For instance, a 100gm serving of breakfast cereal
contains about 2.5gm of salt or a gram of sodium. Two slices of
bread alone accounts for about half a gram of salt, and masala
gravies, soup cubes and other flavour enhancers all contain large
amounts of salt.
However you can reduce your salt intake by making small
changes in your diet. Make the changes gradually so your taste
buds get used to the evolution. Experts recommend the following steps -
• Reduce salt while cooking food.
• Cook with herbs and spices like ajwain, pepper and cumin
seeds. Vinegar, a twist of lime, curd or Indian gooseberry
and raw mango are perfect substitutes for salt.
• Fresh vegetables and fruits are high in potassium which
counteracts the effects of sodium. Eat plenty of those.
• Keep the salt shaker off the dining table.
• When eating out, ask for your food to be prepared with only
a little salt. Restaurant food and takeaways are normally high
in salt content.
Nutrition labels: Packed foods now come with nutrition facts. Read the list of
ingredients to help you determine how much sodium is in a
pack. Labels list ingredients in a descending order. If sodium
is one of the first ingredients on the list, there may be a lot of
sodium in the food. Also remember that sodium has different
names like monosodium glutamate, sodium citrate, sodium
alginate, sodium hydroxide, and sodium phosphate.
At the top of the label, usually right under the “Nutrition Facts”
title, the amount of sodium is given in milligrams (mg). Check
the serving size carefully. A single serving is often very small,
and you may eat more than one serving. If this is the case, you
will eat more sodium than listed on the label.
High salt consumption is a vicious cycle. The more you
consume, the more you want. But if your health is important to
you, start cutting back on your salt intake now.