According to a recent research, every third person in India suffers from high blood pressure. Almost 15 to 30% of our children/adolescents are overweight and obese. All these children/adolescents are at-risk of high blood pressure in the years to come. One of the major risk factors which increases the risk of high blood pressure in high sodium intake. The first advice that your doctor gives you would be to reduce your salt intake.
Have you ever thought how much of salt you consume everyday? If not then, it is time to give it a serious thought. In a recent survey conducted in India, it was noted that the average salt consumed everyday was around 10 grams. This is equivalent to 4 grams of sodium. [Let’s get this right. Salt (NaCl) contains 40% sodium (Na) and 60% chloride (Cl). So when you convert 10 grams of salt to sodium, what you get is around 4 grams of sodium (In simple arithmetic, 1 gram of salt = 400 grams of sodium)]. Our body’s sodium requirements are quite modest. An adult body requires around 1.9 to 2.1 grams of sodium per day. This translates to around 5 grams of salt. This means we consume double the salt that our body requires.
Where is so much salt coming from? A close look at the Indian diet and we realize that 10% of sodium in our diet comes from natural sources while 90% is being contributed in the form of SALT. Most foods naturally contain some small amounts of sodium. Majority of sodium is added in the form of salt during cooking and on the table before consuming the food. Salt gives taste to the food. It is an essential part of our diet. All of us add salt to our dals, curries and vegetables.
Besides these, some people are used to adding salt while
- steaming rice,
- preparing the dough for rotis/parathas,
- incase of stuffed parathas, the stuffing has salt
- some raw vegetables and fruits are consumed after sprinkling salt
In addition to this, there are many invisible sources of sodium. Salt is traditionally used as a preservative. Most processed foods available in the market have loads of sodium. Over the years, we are getting more and more dependent on ready foods available all across.
All instant (noodles, soups), ready-to-eat foods (vegetables, gravies, curries, snacks) and frozen foods (parathas) are loaded with salt.
In addition to the above mentioned foods, some ready masalas (chat masala, garam masala), chat items (pani puri/ golpappa, sev puri, et al) and the Indian version of Chinese foods contain lots of salt.
What is the solution? The simple and the only solution is to CUT DOWN THE SALT INTAKE. How do you do this? The first step is to avoid eating all the processed junk. We tend to buy the junk because it is convenient to us. It saves our cooking time. There are three options for you. One, outsources your food from an external kitchen. There are many people who take orders to prepare your tiffins/meals as per your demands and health needs. Two, hire a cook who can cook for you at your home. Three, indulge in some strict time management, get up early and cook for yourself. You can also combine the three options and choose as per your convenience.
The second step is to decrease the salt added while cooking and on the table. Salt is usually added as per taste. Everyone’s threshold for salty taste varies. Some of us are habituated to adding less salt in the food while some of add more than others. Over the years when this practice continues, we get used to ‘a fixed amount of salt’ in foods. Anything less or more than this is not acceptable to our palate. Here, we need to change our old habit and cultivate a new one. How?
- Be committed towards cutting down the salt intake (either added salt or processed food)
- Discard the table salt container/celler/sprinkler.
- Identify foods where salt is not essential – plain steamed rice, rotis, parathas, buttermilk and so on. All these foods are generally eaten with something else like – dal and rice, roti with sabji. Both, dal and sabji will have salt. So, it is fine if the rice and roti do not have. You can add more flavours – cumin (jeera), coriander, chillies to buttermilk.
- In the other foods where addition of salt is necessary, decrease the amount of salt to by one-third or half. Instead you can add some souring agents – lemon, tamrind, vinegar to mask the taste. Try this strictly for a week. Trust me…after a week or 10 days, if you add the usually amount of salt you earlier added, you will feel that the food is salty!!!
All you need to do is practice to change your threshold for salt. Continue this for weeks, you will never feel like adding more salt to your food. Remember, it is all in your mind. Your palate will accept anything that your mind and brain agree to. So train your mind to accept the new salt threshold and stay healthy!!!!!