- Jamie Liow, Corporate Nutritionist
Sodium or salt (sodium chloride) is used in many ways in our diet, and can sometimes be hidden in many things that we consume on a daily basis. The National Nutrition Survey 2004 stated that 9 out of 10 Singaporeans consume twice the recommended salt intake of 5 grams a day, and this may lead to a higher risk of high blood pressure. Sodium causes fluid retention, which increases blood volume and requires the heart to pump harder to push it through your arteries. In the long run, this often leads to an increase in blood pressure, thus causing damage to your arteries and making them vulnerable to atherosclerosis (plaque build-up).
Salt is present in so many things in our diet that it is impossible to totally avoid it. Moreover, sodium is required in our diet for positive eletrolyte balance. But we are already getting enough of it through the various things we eat, without having to add it to our diet. So what are some of the ways in which we can cut down on this mineral? 1) Water helps you lose weight. It's true! It replaces calorie-laden beverages in the diet, and also fills you up if you were to drink it before a meal, so you don't end up eating more than you should.1) No salt shakers on the dinner table, nor soy sauce bottles
Remove that salt shaker or soy sauce bottle from the dining table. Not having it there means no easy access for family members or yourself to have added salt in your meal. This also includes having that extra little dish of soy sauce when you eat fishball noodles to dip your fishballs in. Table salt accounts for 15% of salt intake.
2) Reduce intake of high salt items
Snack items like potato chips and pretzels, preserved foods and salted/smoked meats like sausages, luncheon meats, bacon and smoked salmon are all very high in sodium content. They sometimes also contain an ingredient called 'sodium nitrite' which may be harmful in the long run.
3) Be stingy
It's always better to have slightly blander food than overly salty food so be stingy with your salt. Also, always add it only at the end of your cooking.
4) Fresh is best
Choose fresh vegetables and fresh meat over cured meat (eg ham & bacon) or salted/smoked meat or pickled vegetables. Fresh foods usually have very low sodium content and juices from the meats itself can also make dishes tasty. It isn't always necessary to use salt as a flavour enhancer.
5) Spice up your life
Instead of using regular table salt, how about trying other spices to perk up your dishes? Basil, bay leaves, curry, garlic, ginger, lemon, vinegar, mint, pepper and rosemary are some examples of natural herbs and spices that can add different flavours to your meal, without the sodium content.
6) Shop smart
When buying packaged or frozen foods, choose those that state 'no added salt' or 'low sodium' on the packaging. Low sodium claims usually have less than 120mg per 100g of product.
7) Less is best
When it comes to condiments like tomato or chilli sauces, choose MAGGI sauces because you can be sure they have up to 25% less sodium than regular sauces. For seasoning granules and bouillons, be sure to choose MAGGI seasoning because they now have 50% less sodium than regular seasoning granules/bouillons.
8) Slowly cut back
If you're someone who's used to eating very tasty, salty foods, make a change for better health and slowly cut back on your salt intake. Foods may taste a little bland at first, but your taste buds will slowly acclimatize to eating less salty foods. By doing that, your tongue in turn becomes more sensitive to tasting other flavours and spices in foods, instead of always depending on salt for taste.
9) Less gravy/sauce please
When ordering from hawker centres, always ask for less or no gravy on your rice if you're ordering mixed dishes, and less soy sauce if you're ordering dry noodles. Ask for more vinegar for flavour instead.
10) Low-sodium salt
In place of your salt, try using low-sodium alternatives like low- or no-sodium salt. These use potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride. They are very similar in chemical properties as well as shape and size, making it a suitable product as a substitute. There are also 'lite' versions, which are a mixture of both sodium and potassium chlorides.