Salt – a silent killer

IN 2010, I was lucky enough to win first prize in the Cinco de Noviembre Adobo Festival in Silay City. I didn’t think I’d win as my dish was so salty, but as a judge said later, “We Filipinos love salty foods.”

I was reminded of this when I took the first bite the other day of a Cafe France ham and cheese croissant at Manila’s Terminal 2. It was so salty I could hardly finish it.

Most Filipinos will admit that the normal diet here is not healthy, especially when it comes to the amount of salt most people consume each day starting with breakfast and ending with that bedtime snack.

Too much salt in the diet can lead to an increase in blood pressure level. This happens when the volume of blood increases or blood vessels constrict, making the heart work harder to supply oxygen to the body.

Consistent pressure of this level can lead to damaged blood vessels and complications.

High blood pressure can lead to higher risks for kidney failure, heart failure, stroke, and heart attack.

The World Health Organization recommends not more than one teaspoon of salt per day or six grams. The Philippines consumes double that amount – twelve grams per day.

Cutting back on salt consumption is a tall order because 80 per cent of the salt we consume each day comes in the form of “hidden” salt in packaged, processed, restaurant, or fast food. The remaining 20 percent of salt would come from dipping sauces such as toyo, patis, and bagoong.

I’m planning to cut back on the amount of salt I take each day. I picked up a few tips and I’d like to share these with you.

Remove the salt shaker from the table and try to avoid adding extra salt to your food.

Cut down or eliminate salty snacks like potato chips. The other day I enjoyed my very last bowl of salty potato chips.

Limit the amount of salt you use while cooking. If a recipe calls for a teaspoon of salt, cut it in half and use half a teaspoon instead. This already cuts salt intake by half. If we all start little by little we may get used to the flavor of our dishes.

Use fresh, rather than packaged, meats. Fresh cuts of beef, chicken or pork contain natural sodium, but the content is still much less than the hidden extra sodium added during processing in products like bacon or ham.

Begin reading food labels as a matter of course. Sodium content is always listed on the label. Sometimes the high sugar content in a product like apple pie can mask the high sodium content so it’s important to check every label for sodium content.

Select spices or seasonings that do not list sodium on their labels, i.e. choose garlic powder over garlic salt.

Salt preference is an acquired taste that can be unlearned. It takes about 6-8 weeks to get used to eating food with much lower quantities of salt, but once it’s done, it’s actually difficult to eat foods like potato chips because they taste way too salty.

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