In 200level medical school, I had this room mate who was a good cook but her food seems saltless to my taste bud. Tolulope, now Dr Akinnimi Tolulope will cook nice food yet with as little salt and oil as possible. It was strange to me even though then I had a little knowledge of why I should reduce salt intake but I couldn’t really comprehend the greatness of its importance.
Looking back now, with so much medical knowledge I have gained over 8 years ago, I must say that my room-mate was wiser. You see, one thing about habit changing is that it could look strange to you and others at first but when you keep at it, it becomes your character. Reduction of salt in your diet can become a part of you.
Salt is very important, yes, it is. Salt is used for preserving food and to prevent food spoilage, we also use it more importantly to add taste to our food. Salt (table salt) contains sodium and chlorine. It is this sodium content that we need to watch, since we cannot separate the two compounds, we have to watch the levels at which we take both.
Why should I reduce salt in my diet?
Let’s go a little bit biochemical, this sodium is water loving, it encourages fluid to accumulate in your blood and increases your blood volume, also causes release of other chemicals which will increase blood pressure.
High blood volume, increased blood pressure will give the kidneys more work to do and of course the heart will pump against a higher resistance. This process can happen at any age? Yes, let’s ask those people who drank salt water during the Ebola epidemic.
The implication of this is that someone with heart disease, hypertension, renal disease or stroke needs to run away from an extra salt intake, low salt diet is preferred as a matter of fact.
Let’s now note that, reduction of salt in diet cannot serve as a medicine for a hypertensive person but can improve his or her response to antihypertensive medications. Once you are hypertensive, you must take your prescribed medication.
The World Health Organization says that high sodium consumption of 2g/day equivalent to salt consumption of 5g/day contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. An estimated 2.5million death could be prevented each year if global salt consumption were reduced to the recommended level. (Less than 5g/day).
What are the sources of salt in a diet?
1. Intake of processed food especially in high quantities .
2. Adding salt as preservative to a food.
3. Adding salt during cooking.
4. Use of other condiments or seasonings that themselves contain salt already.
5. Adding salt to food on the table.
The commonest source that contains a higher amount of salt is via the intake of processed food.
How can I reduce salt in my diet?
This is a very simple question.
1. Be determined to reduce salt in your diet.
2. Stop adding salt to food on the table, stop placing a salt-shaker on the table.
3. Reduce intake of processed food like bread, cereals, noodles, pasta and the likes.
4. Limit your consumption of snacks. Some snacks’ salt content will be masked by other ingredients in it, so it will just be sweet all together.
5. Read the content of all labelled food and go for the one with low sodium content.
6. Reduce intake of canned food like ham, corn beef and so on.
7. Select spices or seasoning with less sodium content e.g garlic powder.
8. Limit the amount of salt to a food if you have added things that contain salt previously like crayfish, iru (locust beans) and the rest.
9. Taste your soup before adding salt. You can make salt the last ingredient to add to a pot of soup or a concoction. Taste first to see how far other things in it had affected the taste then compliment with little salt.
10. Choose fresh food always. Prefer fresh chicken to barbeque.
11. Note that fresh fruits and vegetables contain low sodium and high potassium which lowers blood pressure. Consume these in high quantities.
12. Wash generously with water anything that is preserved with salt first before adding it to whatever you are cooking.
13. Consider not adding salt to some naturally sweet food. Sweet potato will always be sweet and go ahead and fry your ripe plantain without salt.
Do you know that your taste bud needs just about 8 weeks to adjust to low salt food? After which you will detest any salty food. Try it. Living healthy is a matter of choice and to eat a healthy diet takes deliberate efforts.
Dr Bolanle Aderehinwo.