Home > Magazine > Health Watch > Please (Don't) Pass the Salt!


Please (Don't) Pass the Salt!

September 2008
Please (Don't) Pass the Salt!

Hosted by Aarti Patel & Dr. Gulshan Harjee

Salt has always had its place in history, dating back to ancient China and as early as 3000 B.C. Not only is it an essential element for flavor but it is also a widely used form of preservation for food—and at one time even humans (think Egyptian mummies). In fact, salt has even served as money in ancient civilizations: the word “salary” comes from the Latin word ‘salarium” which means payment in salt. Salt, a mineral made up of 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride, is so popular that it is often available on dining tables across the globe, even after salt has already been added during the cooking! However, for some years salt’s popularity has been making a turn in the other direction, since there has been evidence to suggest that eating an excessive amount of salt is a risk factor for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

While sodium and chloride are electrolytes that are essential to our survival, mega doses of it are not required. Salt is available in some amount in just about every food product. While fruits and vegetables contain a minimal amount, processed, packaged and frozen foods contain larger doses. So what is the minimal amount of salt required for your body? According to the FDA, the dietary recommended intake for sodium is 1,500 milligrams for adults up to age 50 and less for those over 50. According to the American Heart Association, it is 2,000 to 2,300 mg for adults. The elderly and those with hypertension should consume less. Only endurance athletes are recommended to consume more to replenish the amount of sodium lost in sweat. Keeping that in mind, most of us consume close to an alarming 5,000 mg per day!

How do you limit your salt intake? First of all, take a look at how much you are consuming on a given day and you might be surprised! Salt is in every food product and at the end of the day it all adds up. Try this: tally up the amount of salt you consume in one day. Start with breakfast and write down the amount per serving in each food product you eat throughout the day. You’ll be surprised to know that traditional Indian packaged foods such as frozen kofta curries, saag paneer, channa masala, etc. can easily pack in anywhere from 400 to 900 mg per serving. How about those yummy frozen parathas to go with that delicious curry? Yes, each paratha can pack in up to 400 mg per serving. Therefore, if not careful, you can easily exceed your daily requirement of salt in just one meal. Be sure to count the salt milligrams in cheese, milk, bread, cereals, pasta, waffles and salad dressings. Did you know that salt is even found in condiments? If you are a fan of fast food and are always eating out, you are definitely consuming more salt than required.

Once you have an idea of how much salt you are consuming, the following are ways to reduce your salt intake: Purchase food products that are ‘low-salt’ or ‘no-salt added.’ Get rid of the salt in your salt shaker at the dinner table. You can replace it with a salt substitute like “No-Salt” (salt flavor without the sodium)—readily available at grocery stores—or better still, make use of other seasonings such as pepper, cumin, chilies and lemon juice. Try to eat more whole foods such as fruits and vegetables and limit salt as much as possible while cooking your meals. Avoid frozen packaged foods and curry sauces that come in jars, along with bagged snacks such as chips, pretzels, etc. When making foods such as chapattis, parathas and rice, avoid adding salt. Always rinse canned beans/peas/lentils to remove excess salt that is used for preservation; if possible use the fresher variety. Use ‘No-Salt’ when making lassis and raitas. Consume low or fat free dairy products which have less salt. When eating out, request that your food be prepared without salt or very little salt. (You’ll be surprised how much restaurants are willing to comply.) Finally, get smart about reading food labels and comparing different products.

So unless you are an endurance athlete, do remember that mega doses of salt are not necessary in your diet and will cause fluid retention. Throughout the years, it might even narrow your blood vessels adding stress to the circulatory system, which in turn will put you at risk for high blood pressure and eventually cardiovascular disease! Now that’s a good reason to, hmmm, not pass the salt!

Enjoyed reading Khabar magazine? Subscribe to Khabar and get a full digital copy of this Indian-American community magazine.

  • Add to Twitter
  • Add to Facebook
  • Add to Technorati
  • Add to Slashdot
  • Add to Stumbleupon
  • Add to Furl
  • Add to Blinklist
  • Add to Delicious
  • Add to Newsvine
  • Add to Reddit
  • Add to Digg
  • Add to Fark
blog comments powered by Disqus

Back to articles






Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Click here    

 World Music Banner.jpg

Global HolidaysBanner ad.jpg

Dollar Sense Tax & Accounting REVISED.jpg 


Krishnan Co WebBanner.jpg






SDK small banner 7-16.jpg