Salt is something that none of us can really live without because of the taste it brings it out in food. But, it’s also important as a source of sodium, which has a variety of essential biological functions. Sodium is needed for the transmission of nerve impulses, the contraction and relaxation of muscle fibers, and for the proper electrolyte and fluid balance.
Unfortunately, for many of us, salt becomes a guilty pleasure, to the extent of becoming an addiction. This poses various health risks, making it necessary to tackle the salt problem before things get out of hand.
The Problem With Salt
“Excess sodium in your bloodstream puts enormous pressure on the kidneys, also increasing the risk of hypertension, heart disease, & strokes”
While sodium is an essential mineral, most Indians consume salt in excess, with studies showing that on an average, salt intake in India is 119% higher than the WHO recommended limit of 5 grams a day! This poses a serious health problem as the excess sodium in your bloodstream puts enormous pressure on the kidneys.
As the kidneys are not able to flush out all the excess sodium, it gives rise to other health problems, as sodium draws more water from body cells into the bloodstream. As a result, the volume of blood increases, forcing the heart to pump harder. This causes early onset of hypertension or high blood pressure, which makes you vulnerable to heart attack, strokes, and kidney failure.
How To Cut Back On Salt Intake
In order to achieve success with salt reduction you need to take a phased approach. Instead of trying to make a dramatic reduction all at once, try to cut back gradually, adopting one measure at a time.
Avoid Processed Foods
“Almost all processed foods have high salt content to make them more palatable”
For many of us, the bulk of our salt intake comes from packaged or processed foods, which is why this should be your starting point. Almost all whole foods or natural foods contain little to no sodium, so try snacking on fresh fruit and veggie salads instead.
Home prepared meals are again a great idea, as you can control the amount of salt added to each dish. In the case of meats too, fresh meats are low in sodium, while processed meats like sausage and salami have a high sodium content.
Beware Of Hidden Salt
“Some packaged foods may appear to be low in sodium, but contain hidden sources like disodium phosphate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), & sodium benzoate”
It’s not just salty chips and cheezlings that will give you excess salt or sodium. Many packaged foods like instant noodles contain other ingredients like disodium phosphate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and sodium benzoate also have high sodium content. These ingredients are even found in baked foods and some varieties of cheese.
When looking at the labels, don’t be tricked by deceptive marketing either as many of those products with labels stating ‘reduced sodium’ only have marginal reductions as compared to regular varieties.
Ditch The Sauce & Condiments
“Most ready made sauces & dressings contain high levels of salt & trans fats”
Whether it’s salad dressing and sauce or sandwich spreads and dips, store bought varieties are loaded with salt, as well as trans fats. In fact, it is that very combination of fat and salt that makes them so addictive and tasty. Switch to natural garnishing and sauces instead, using lemon juice, olive oil, and homemade mayo or chutneys.
“Dehydration through sweating increases salt cravings, so make sure to keep oral rehydration handy in advance”
Rigorous physical activity works up a sweat and the loss of body salt can trigger intense cravings for salty foods. It’s hard to resist such cravings when they do come on, but you can prepare yourself for them. Whenever you’re working out or outdoors carry some oral rehydration solution with you, as what you really need is to replenish electrolyte levels.
The taste for salt is something that we acquire and get habituated to, which is what makes it so tough to give it up. But, this also means that we can get accustomed to a diet with less salt, as your taste buds rapidly adjust. This makes cutting back slowly the most important rule. When cooking, restrict the amount of salt added and use more herbs and spices for taste instead. Your taste buds will soon appreciate it and your heart certainly will!
Join TheHealthOrange on WhatsApp. Type “Hi” and send to 982-0123-040