Hidden sources of salt
Salt or sodium chloride is what we cannot do without in cooking. Sodium is an essential element the body needs for its fluid balance. Yet in excess, it can also upset that balance. And if you have been advised to cut down on salt or sodium for health reasons like high blood pressure, kidney or heart conditions, then it becomes a culinary challenge to whoever is cooking your food at home to reduce salt and still make the food palatable.
Under normal conditions our body requires only half a gram of sodium. But people lavish salt in foods to the point that they end up eating twenty or more times than required. Though salt requirements depend on outside weather conditions, and how much we lose through sweating, a healthy quantity is 6 grams or one teaspoon of salt. Salt or sodium chloride is only 40 % sodium. So 6 grams of salt furnishes 2400mg sodium.
Our main source of salt and sodium in foods is by addition – while cooking and salting at the table while eating – which is easy to reduce because it is the visual salt. But what about the hidden sources of sodium that we do not actually see? Some of these sources may not even taste salty.
Where to find the hidden sodium and salt?
Salt is a common preservative used in canned, packed or processed foods. So look out for salt, sodium, baking powder, monosodium glutamate, soda bicarbonate, sodium benzoate on the labels of food and avoid them. One teaspoon of baking soda contains 1400mg sodium and one teaspoon of baking powder contains 530mg sodium.
This includes pickles, dried fish, cured meats, ready to fry fritters and cereals, instant soups, canned beverages, instant pudding and cake mixes, frozen ready to prepare foods, hamburgers, sausages, salami, cheeses, ice cream, salted nuts, salted olives, peanut butter etc
Baked products contain baking soda or sodium bi carbonate or both sometimes for leavening. This includes breads and rolls, cakes, biscuits, certain rotis, etc
Fast foods and restaurant foods are a salt mine.
Other sources of salt are salted butter, cocoa powder, yeast extracts, bouillon cubes, mayonnaise, commercial salad dressings, fish or meat paste, and sauces. One bouillon cube contains 1200 mg sodium which is half of the daily required amount.
Naturally found sodium
Fruits are low in sodium. So have them every day. They contain potassium that may help to control hypertension – oranges, guava, banana, tomatoes, kiwi, melons
Most vegetable are low in sodium. Green leafy vegetables are salt loving plants but unless you are a kidney patient on very low sodium diet, it is perfectly alright to have greens. So also, sodium is found naturally in milk, curds, legumes, nuts, seeds etc and it is perfectly healthy to have these natural foods.
Lemon juice, herbs and spices, vinegar may be used to flavour foods that are prepared with less salt and thus make the dishes palatable.
Parvathy R Krishnan
The author is a trained Nutrition & Dietetics expert with over 20 years’ of experience in hospitals like Vijaya Hospital in Chennai and the Armed Forces Hospital and New Mowasat Hospitals in Kuwait. She is presently a member of the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India. Parvathy blogs at http://premadiet.blogspot.in/
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