TIPS TO REDUCE SALT INTAKE
An estimated 3.3 million South Africans suffer from high blood pressure. One of the main culprits is a diet high in salt. High salt consumption leads to high blood pressure, which in turn may lead to heart disease and stroke.
In ancient times, salt was so valuable that people used it for currency. It was used sparingly to season and preserve food. Today, we have an embarrassment of riches, and modern humans consume more salt than is good for them. But the biggest contributor to our sodium consumption is not the salt shaker: Approximately 75 percent of the sodium we eat comes from sodium added to processed and restaurant foods.
WE ARE STILL EATING TOO MUCH SODIUM
Despite public health efforts over the past several years to encourage people in the Souh Africa to consume less sodium, adults still take in an average of 3,400 milligrams (mg) per day — well above the current federal guideline of 2,300 mg or less daily. (The American Heart Association’s recommended cap is 1,500 mg, which is much less than 1 teaspoon — or 6 g — a day). Evidence has shown that reducing sodium intake reduces blood pressure, as well as the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Many high blood pressure medications act as diuretics, which stimulate the kidneys to remove sodium and water from the body, thereby relaxing blood vessel walls and lowering blood pressure. But before choosing to take a medicine that will get rid of the salt in your diet for you, there is another option: What about cutting down on the salt yourself? If you think about it, you can monitor your salt intake and reduce it without swallowing one pill. Medication may be necessary if you can’t control spiking and consistently high blood pressure. But if you initiate your own regimen, you may be able to lower your blood pressure on your own.
Monitoring salt intake begins with avoiding packaged and processed foods, such as smoked, salted, and canned meat, fish, and poultry; ham, bacon, hot dogs, and lunch meats; hard and processed cheeses; regular peanut butter (buy unsalted instead); canned soups and broths; crackers, chips, and pretzels; breads and rolls; pizza and mixed pasta dishes, such as lasagna; and more.
WANT TO CUT SODIUM? LOOK AT FOOD LABELS
To stay under 2,300 mg or less a day, you must read food labels regularly. Look for the “no salt added ” labels (meaning no salt is added during processing, but the product is not necessarily salt- or sodium-free). Foods labeled “sodium-free” have less than 5 mg per serving; “very low sodium” foods contain less than 35 mg per serving; “low-sodium” foods have less than 140 mg per serving. Other terms you might see include “light sodium” or “lightly salted” (meaning at least 50 percent less sodium than in the regular product), and “reduced sodium” (meaning at least 25 percent less sodium than in the regular product — but probably too much for your diet!).
Sodium, despite its hazards, is nevertheless an essential nutrient needed in fairly small amounts, unless you lose a lot through sweating. Sodium helps maintain a balance of body fluids and keeps muscles and nerves working well. A mineral, sodium is one of the chemical elements found in salt. Though used interchangeably, the words “salt” and ”sodium” have different meanings: Salt, or sodium chloride, is a crystalline compound used to flavor and preserve food.
The relationship between sodium and high blood pressure is fairly straightforward. Sodium attracts water, and the higher the sodium intake, the greater the amount of water in the bloodstream — which can increase blood volume and blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which blood pressure stays elevated over time. That makes the heart work harder, and the higher force of blood flow can damage arteries and other organs, including the eyes, brain, and kidneys.
Sodium and potassium also affect each other along with your blood pressure: Potassium can help lower blood pressure by acting as a counterbalance to the harmful effects of sodium in your diet. To up your intake, eat foods rich in potassium, such as bananas, juices (such as carrot, orange, pomegranate), yogurt, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, and white beans.
TIPS TO REDUCE SALT IN THE DIET
Reduce your risk of developing heart diseaseor stroke by following these 10 handy tips to lower your salt intake, courtesy of World Action on Salt and Health:
- Read labels when shopping and choose low sodium or salt-free alternatives in pre-packaged foods
- Keep snacks of fresh fruit, dried fruit or unsalted nuts at home and in the office, and in children’s lunchboxes
- Limit takeaways and fast foods such as burgers, fried chicken and pizza to an occasional treat
- Ask for fries with no salt
- When ordering pizza, choose a vegetarian or chicken topping rather than pepperoni, bacon or extra cheese
- When dining out, ask for sauces and other condiments to be served on the side rather than on the meal
- Avoid ordering dishes that contain high salt ingredients such as Asian sauces, cured meats and cheeses
- Don’t add salt to your food at the table when dining out or eating at home
- Stock up on low sodium or salt-free condiments, sauces and spreads.
- Replace salt in your cooking with herbs and spices
- Decrease your use of salt gradually. As you use less salt, your preference for it diminishes.
- Rinse canned foods containing sodium (such as beans, tuna, and vegetables)
Quick fact: did you know that mushrooms are very low in sodium? They contain only 14mg of sodium per 100g. When one then considers the fact that a low-salt diet allows between 400 – 1000mg of sodium per day – the low sodium content of fresh mushrooms is even more impressive.