Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5 Issue 18, Tuesday, April 11, 2010




A pinch of salt

THE topic comes about randomly when holding discussions with your friends Mrs. Chowdhury has just been diagnosed with high-blood pressure and poor Mr. Imran has recently had a stroke. You cluck your tongue sympathetically and then in silence, thank your lucky stars that you are not one of them.

Or not yet, anyways…
It may seem hard to believe but studies show that people have been inching closer and closer to a vast array of life-threatening diseases simply by adding that extra pinch of salt to their scrambled eggs in the morning.

Well, you must be thinking, thank God I don't add extra salt to my food then!

In that case, this might be a good time to think again.

About 75 percent of the salt we consume come from common everyday foods: the instant soup you put on the stove while in a hurry, the Kellogg's 'Rice Krispies' you just bought for the children and let's not even mention the alarmingly high levels of salt leisurely put in your afternoon curry, some of which, by the way, easily sail over the recommended limit of 6g of salt per day.

This begs the all-important of 'Why is salt being branded as such a villain, anyways?'

The science is simple. When there is excess salt in the blood, the salt retains more and more water. More water increases the volume of blood, which increases blood pressure. The blood vessels react to this increased pressure by narrowing and thus, allowing less blood to flow to the organs, which in turn, damages the organs. The heart then has to pump harder and harder at this high pressure, which may lead to increased risks of heart failure.

“Well, I would know if I had high blood pressure,” you can say dismissively but again, that would be far from the truth. Because it has no symptoms, high blood pressure is often labelled as 'the silent killer.' High blood pressure increases the risks of a stroke or heart disease by almost as much as three times.

All that said, salt is still an important component that is required in our everyday diet. The key is to find the correct balance for which the following quick tips may come in use.

At home…
Compare labels while grocery shopping and always pick the one with the lowest salt content.

Healthier foods like carrots or celery sticks should be preferred over your salted bag of chips.

Go easy on mustard, soy sauce, pickles and mayonnaise as these can be higher in salt.

Try to avoid automatically adding salt while cooking. Some people add salt simply out of habit.

If adding flavour is the problem, add fresh herbs instead and marinate the fish and chicken in advance to give them more flavour.

Eating Out…
If you must have a pizza, choose vegetable or chicken toppings instead of pepperoni or extra cheese.

For Chinese/Indian meals, choose plain rice it has less salt than egg-fried rice or pilau rice.

Avoid habitually dousing your food with salt chances are the chef has already added the required amount.

By Mahareen Khalid



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