Balancing the salt intake is a top priority for health seekers and weight control aficionados who value the fitness of their hearts. Consuming salt is essential, as it helps in – balancing the body’s fluid levels, supporting nerve transmissions and aiding in the body’s metabolism and digestion. However, salt is grossly overconsumed, with most people consuming over 3500 mg of salt which is 1.5 times more than the recommended limit. Taking everything with a “pinch of salt” as the idiom goes, is not the best course of action for your health. I say, stay light, take it easy and go for the low salt diet instead.
Even if one goes by the book, it is hard to control the amount of salt we consume until we make a sustained and conscious effort. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, sodium occurs naturally in some foods like celery, beets and milk that are a part of our routine meals. Then, for processed foods, oftentimes we are so overwhelmed by or engrossed in the data about the protein, glucose and calorie content mentioned on food labels, that we completely ignore the information on salt. Unfortunately, most of the packaged products like bread, biscuits and even breakfast cereals and canned foods, have additional salt incorporated in them. Processed food ingredients like stock cubes, ginger & garlic pastes, preserves etc. also have a high dose of salt. As much as 75% of our salt consumption comes from these sources. And we remain blind to them. All these factors make measuring or controlling the daily intake a little tough!
Regulating the amount of salt we consume is made relatively easy if we follow a few simple steps. Some due diligence on controlling salt is vital. And these healthy practices encourage this, as well as aid in our overall wellbeing. So, here they are:
1. Indulge in More Home-cooked Meals
Cook your meals yourself. Use homegrown or fresh ingredients and less salt. Steamed, roasted, baked, boiled and grilled foods require only a minimum amount of salt to taste good. Additionally, use spices, herbs and condiments generously to garnish and complement the texture of the food. Substituting salt with spices or ingredients such as fresh ginger, coriander, basil or lime, enhances the flavour of food.
At restaurants and cafeterias, enquire about foods that are less intense on salt. Don’t shy away from requesting the server to reduce the amounts of salt added to the food while it is being prepared.
2. Avoid Processed Foods
Avoid processed and packaged foods as far as possible. Avoid processed ingredients in the food you prepare too. Instead, go for the fresh wholesome produce from the farmers markets or local grocery stores. Consider organic and other healthy options while purchasing food. For canned foods that are preserved whole, rinse off the brine before using the food. For all other foods read the labels and make informed choices.
3. Increase Your Awareness
Increase your awareness about the various components of the food you consume. Understand the nutritional value of food, as well as the levels of nutrients in them. Endeavour to have a balanced meal at mealtime. Avoid sprinkling salt on food after it is cooked, or on salads and sandwiches. Seek guidance from a certified Health Coach or a nutritionist on how to lower the salt intake without impacting the vital body functions or if you suffer from eating disorders.
There is a ton of misinformation spreading regarding the superior benefits of Himalayan salt, rock salt or kosher salt over normal table salt. This is known to be untrue. Low sodium salts may be an improvement, but only if the servings are reduced as well. Sea salt too may have traces of minerals in addition to sodium but is processed identically by the body. Identify and disregard fads with an educated mind.