Less salt, please

SALT is one of our essential food seasonings but a survey has shown that Malaysians’ salt intake is 25% higher than the healthy standard set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

As revealed by the Food Intake Among Malaysian Adults Research 2002/2003, the salt intake for Malaysian adults is 2,575mg a day.

According to the Malaysia Diet Guidelines 2010, the salt intake should not exceed one teaspoon, which is equivalent to 2,000mg, a day.

A high salt consumption can be linked to various health problems such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, asthma and obesity.

What is salt?

Salt is the common name for sodium chloride. It is the sodium component of salt that is important. There are about 2.5g of sodium in every 6g of salt.

Why do we need salt?

The body needs a certain amount of sodium to function properly.

Sodium helps to maintain the concentration of body fluids at correct levels. It also helps cells to take up nutrients.

Why is too much salt bad?

When levels of sodium are too high, the body retains too much water and the volume of bodily fluids increases.

Many medical experts believe this process is linked to high blood pressure, or hypertension, which in turn is linked to a greater risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Excessive salt can be dangerous for young babies.

While an adult will be able to get rid of salt from the body through the kidneys into the urine, very young babies cannot process large quantities of salt as their kidneys are not yet developed.

If they are given food with a high salt content before they are at least four months old, they may suffer from kidney, liver and brain damage.

How much salt should we eat?

Experts recommend that adults eat 5-6g of salt a day (equivalent to one teaspoonful). It is estimated that if average consumption was cut to 6g a day, it would prevent 70,000 heart attacks and strokes a year.

And this is not just the salt you add to your food; according to many studies around the world, most of the salt we eat is already in our everyday food like bread and meat. Small amounts of sodium can be found naturally in some foods such as eggs and fish.

The salt we sprinkle into our cooking and on cooked food accounts for only 10%-15% of our intake.

Packaged and processed foods are thought to account for around 75% of the average person’s salt intake.

How to reduce salt intake:

·Remove or cut down salt in cooking. Use herbs, spices and other seasonings to enhance flavour.

·Carefully monitor the salt content of processed food you consume. Choose products with lower sodium content.

·Eat more fruit and vegetables – they contain potassium which balances the effect of salt on the body.

·When eating out, make smart choices like asking for your food without salt or for dressings or sauces on the side, so you can only have as much as you need.

Your taste for salt is acquired. It can be unlearned – reduce your salt intake gradually and your taste buds will adjust.

How to look out for salt when shopping:

Buying food that is low in salt is one of the best ways to cut down on salt. So, before putting anything into that shopping cart, check the label to see how much salt is in the food per 100g:

Although the labelling of salt content in food is not compulsory in Malaysia, most imported goods state how much salt is in 100g of food.

Most food labels, however, give the sodium, rather than the salt content, of food.

You can still find out the amount of salt in a product by multiplying the sodium content by 2.5

by Hariati Azizan.

Read more @ http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/4/25/nation/6119967&sec=nation

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