Mumbai Mirror | Apr 30, 2013, 09.00 AM IST
Our body needs salt to function. Too much raises risk of heart disease and stroke. A smart plan to cut it down
Catch the daily culprits
More than 40 per cent of our sodium intake comes from food we tend to binge on every day. The major culprits are bread, pizza, chicken soup, cheese, pasta, meat dishes such as meat loaf, and snack foods such as potato chips (including canned tomato sauce), and butter popcorn, which you find at the movie halls. To bypass these sodium traps, compare nutrition labels on your favourite foods because different brands vary in sodium content. Replace pre-packaged canned food withfresh food.
Study food labels
While there is sodium in almost everything we eat, the amount of this mineral in condiments are shocking. When you read a food’s ingredients, salt (sodium chloride) isn’t the only thing you should be looking for. There are other sodium-containing compounds such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrate, which will up the total sodium count. For instance, one tablespoon of soy sauce has 920 mg of sodium; even those labelled “low sodium” have 575 mg of sodium. Other big offenders include tomato sauce (640 mg per half cup) and barbecue sauce (420 mg per two tablespoons). If you overdo it at one meal, make sure you balance it out by making lowsodium choices the rest of the day. Also, low-fat doesn’t mean lowsodium. When food companies take out fat, they often replace it with salt to enhance flavour.
Find other spices
Instead of sprinkling salt over the dish, use fresh or dried herbs and spices like garlic, basil, cumin, chili peppers, rosemary, ginger or cinnamon to enhance the flavour. You can also try flavoured vinegars, such as fig, pear and cranberry. Premixed blends of spices often contain salt. Nutritionists recommend that you go for ‘no or low-sodium’ labels.
Eat out wisely
Stick to restaurants where your food is cooked to order rather than eateries where food may be pre-packaged (like soup, gravy). Choose simple items without gravies or sauces and ask them to be prepared without salt. Simple measures may also help. Order baked potato instead of the mashed potatoes with your sizzlers, but don’t eat the skin, which may have been oiled and salted before baking. Add a salad to fill up on greens, but avoid dressings since they’re often loaded with sodium. Request that grilled entrees, like fish and chicken, be cooked without salt.
Watch portion size
You may think you’re doing fine because you only had a packet of chips. However, check out the label for serving size. A handful of potato chips are 170mg of sodium. If you are going to indulge, measure out your portion so you don’t overdo it.
Time to adapt
Your taste for salt is acquired, so it will take you time to get used to a lower-sodium diet. When you first cut back, food may taste a little bland. Decrease your salt intake gradually, and after a few weeks, you probably won’t even miss it.
Daily sodium allowance
Medical experts say daily intake of sodium for healthy adults is 2300 mg. If you’re older than 51, it’s only 1550 mg. It may sound like a lot but it’s surprising how quickly your meals can add up to your daily allowance. The best way to ensure that you’re consuming the right amount of sodium is by treating it like it’s money and you’re on a budget. Eat it wisely and keep a watch on what you consume. Try not to exceed 600 mg of sodium per meal and snacks.