Dietary habits are shifting as a result of lifestyle changes, growing urbanization, and the manufacture of more and more processed food. Foods that have been heavily processed are becoming more widely available and more inexpensive.
Globally, people are eating more calorie-dense meals that are heavy in salt, sugar, saturated fats, and trans fats. The main source of sodium is salt, and consuming more sodium is linked to hypertension as well as a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
A healthy diet should include enough fruits, vegetables, and dietary fiber, which may be found in whole grains. However, as people’s eating habits change, they are ingesting less of these essential foods. Potassium, which is found in fruits and vegetables, helps to lower blood pressure.
Processed foods can contribute salt to the diet, either because they are particularly high in salt (such as ready meals, processed meats like bacon, ham, salami, cheese, salty snack foods, and instant noodles, among others), or because they are frequently taken in significant quantities (such as bread and processed cereal products). Additionally, salt is added to food at the table or while preparing (with bouillon and stock cubes) (soy sauce, fish sauce, and table salt).
Consumers should check food labels and select low-sodium items since some manufacturers are reformulating recipes to lower the salt content of their goods.
FACTS ABOUT SALT
Low potassium intake (less than 3.5 grams/day) and high sodium intake (>2 grams/day, equivalent to 5 g of salt/day) both contribute to high blood pressure and raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Salt is the main source of sodium in our diet, however, sodium glutamate, a condiment used in many cultures, can also include sodium.
Most people use twice as much salt as is advised—on average, 9 to 12 grams per day—than is healthy.
Adults who consume fewer than 5 grams of salt per day had lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. Cutting less on salt has several advantages, but the main one is a decrease in high blood pressure.
One of the most economical steps a nation can take to improve population health outcomes has been identified as reducing salt intake. A year of an extra healthy life can be obtained for a cost that is less than the average yearly income or gross domestic product per person by implementing key salt reduction methods. If worldwide salt consumption were to be brought down to the recommended amount, it is predicted that 2.5 million fatalities may be avoided annually.
WHAT ARE THE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE SALT INTAKE?
WHO advises against consuming more than 5 g (a little under a teaspoon) of salt per day for individuals.
According to WHO, the recommended maximum salt consumption for adults should be reduced for children between the ages of two and fifteen based on their proportional energy needs to those of adults. The period of exclusive nursing (0–6 months) or the period of supplemental feeding while breastfeeding is continued are not covered by this suggestion for children (6–24 months).
Iodine, which is crucial for a fetus’ and young child’s healthy brain development as well as for enhancing people’s overall mental performance, should be added to all salt consumed.
The maintenance of plasma volume, the maintenance of the acid-base balance, the transmission of nerve impulses, and appropriate cell activity all depend on sodium, an essential nutrient.
Increased blood pressure and other unfavorable health effects are associated with excess salt intake. The main causes of dietary salt consumption are influenced by a population’s dietary habits and cultural environment.
Milk, pork, and seafood are just a few examples of foods that naturally contain sodium. It is frequently present in large concentrations in condiments as well as processed meals including bread, processed meat, and snack items (e.g. soy source, fish source).
The food additive sodium glutamate, which is used all around the world, also contains sodium. Potassium is a crucial nutrient for maintaining the volume of all body fluids, the balance of acids and electrolytes, and appropriate cell activity.
Potassium is typically present in a wide range of whole meals, particularly fruits and vegetables. Adults with higher potassium intake had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
TIPS TO DECREASE THE SALT INTAKE
Government policies and tactics should foster conditions that allow people to consume enough of the safe, wholesome, and salt-free foods that make up a balanced diet. It is both the responsibility of society and the individual to improve eating behaviors. It necessitates a population-based, multidisciplinary, and culturally appropriate strategy.
Important general ways for reducing salt include:
Government policies should include appropriate fiscal policies and regulations to ensure food producers and retailers produce healthier foods or make healthy products accessible and affordable; working with the private sector to improve the availability and accessibility of low-salt products; consumer awareness and population empowerment through social marketing and mobilization to raise awareness of the need to reduce salt consumption; and creating an enabling environment.
Programs that encourage the fortification of salt with micronutrients and those that discourage the use of salty condiments or seasonings (such as bouillon cubes, soy sauce, and fish sauce) can work well together.
You can cut back on your household’s salt intake by:
Limiting the use of salty snacks, not adding salt to food as it is being prepared, not placing a salt shaker on the table, and picking items with lower sodium contents.
Other nearby pragmatic measures to cut back on salt consumption include:
- incorporating salt reduction into food workers’ training programs; eliminating salt shakers and soy sauce from restaurant tables; introducing shelf or product labels that make it evident which goods have a high salt content;
- giving specific dietary recommendations to people who visit healthcare facilities, urging them to consume fewer salty foods and use less salt in their cooking, educating kids, and creating a welcoming environment for them to grow up in, are all ways to encourage people to adopt low-sodium diets.
The food business should take the following actions:
Reducing salt in foods and meals served at restaurants and catering outlets, the labeling sodium content of foods and meals, and promoting the advantages of eating reduced salt foods through consumer awareness activities in food outlets. This will help consumers adapt to the taste of the products and prevent them from switching to alternative products.
BURSTING THE MYTHS
“You need extra salt in your diet on a hot, muggy day because you sweat more” Even on a hot and muggy day, there is no need for more salt because little salt is lost through sweat, however, it is still vital to drink plenty of water.
Simply because it is “natural,” sea salt is not “better” than table salt. No matter where the salt comes from, the sodium in salt is what has a negative impact on our health. Salt intake is not mostly from salt applied during cooking.” About 80% of the salt consumed in many nations comes from processed foods. Salt is not necessary for food to have a tasty flavor.
“Food without salt has no flavor.” While initially, this may be true, your taste buds will quickly get used to less salt, increasing the likelihood that you will choose food with more flavor and less salt.
“Salted foods taste salted.” Because they are occasionally combined with other ingredients, such as sweets, that mask the flavor, some dishes that are heavy in salt don’t taste extremely salty. To determine the sodium content of foods, it is crucial to read the labels. Only elderly persons should be concerned with their salt intake: At any age, eating too much salt can cause blood pressure to rise.
Salt restriction could be detrimental to my health: Given that so many commonly consumed foods include salt, it can be quite challenging to consume too little of it.
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