June 25, 2021
Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all - Nelson Mandela
Salt, a ubiquitous component of our diet and daily life, has become a symbol of human dignity and right. Salt gave a strong basis for socio-political revolutions as evidenced by “salt satyagraha” during our struggle for independence. The word “salt” invokes a strong feeling in all of us. Food without salt is unimaginable.
The chemical name of salt is sodium chloride. World Health Organization recommends a salt intake of less than 5 grams (less than a teaspoon) per day for a healthy adult. A survey done in India to assess the salt consumption found that average salt intake per person was 11 grams per day. This means Indians consume excess salt. Our salt consumption is more than two times the daily requirement. The reason for increasing salt is our changing diet habits and style. Advertisements in mass media, endorsement of some food products by sport stars and film celebrities have greatly influenced us to adopt unhealthy food habits. Fast food culture has become a norm. Our leisure time is spent in fast food joints.
What are the problems with excess salt intake? In a healthy person, excess salt intake is linked with high blood pressure. In a person who has hypertension, salt intake can worsen blood pressure control. In a person with kidney or heart disease, excess salt can lead to swelling of legs and other body parts due to water accumulation. Hence, excess salt can harm our health.
What are sources of salt in our diet? Apart from the salt, which is added to during the preparation of food, the other sources of salt are pickle, fast foods, bakery products like chips, salted biscuits, salted butter, pizza, burgers, and carbonated drinks. The meat which is stored in brine solution is also a source of salt in diet.
Communities which consume low sodium diet have lower incidence of hypertension and related illness. Given the substantial benefits of low sodium foods, we must promote consumption of low sodium food. Low sodium foods are easily available and are economical. These include whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, egg, fish and meat. During preparation of food at home, use salt alternatives like flavoured spices and moderate the use of salt. Eat salads without sprinkling salt on them.
When you shop for groceries in the supermarket, buy whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, egg and meat. Steer your shopping cart away from counters displaying packed processed foods, canned foods and carbonated drinks. Resist temptation to buy those attractive coloured bottles with unhealthy carbonated drinks and salty snacks. If you are buying packed or canned foods, read the food label carefully and assess the sodium content in the food. A food with daily value sodium of 10% or more is considered a high salt food. Keep away from these.
To conclude, excess salt consumption has deleterious effects on health. Eat whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruits, egg, fish and meat. Stay away from processed food and cola drinks. On the dining table, do not pass the salt please....