How much salt should we consume per day? (Salt Awareness Week)
Does the salt in our food have any other advantage besides just adding taste?
For a long time, salt has been considered good for our health. It helps maintain the fluid balance in our bodies. The sodium helps in regulating the body’s water content.
However, today our average salt intake per day has increased dramatically. One of the major reasons for this could be the higher consumption of processed foods. Do you know that a pack of French fries from McDonald’s contains more salt than three full meals of rice and vegetables!
The increased intake of salt on a daily basis has led to a wide range of health disorders that include high blood pressure, stroke, heart diseases, stomach cancer, osteoporosis, kidney stones, obesity, etc. Salt consists of both sodium and chloride. While sodium is about 40% of salt, it’s the chloride that makes the rest of the 60% dangerous for our health.
Sodium is absolutely necessary for us (the body cannot function without sodium at all), but how much salt intake per day is optimal?
A single teaspoon of table salt has 2325 mg of sodium. According to global health organizations and leading researchers, we should have 1500-2300 mg of sodium per day. This means, we shouldn’t consume more than one teaspoon of salt in a day — totally, from all foods.
What are the alternatives then?
- Olive Oil: For salads and green veggies, olive oil and vinegar are a better option than salt. They not only add taste and flavour, but are good for our health too.
- Low Sodium Table Salt: With increased awareness of high salt intake and its risks, a low-sodium version of salt is available in the market which contains mostly potassium chloride. The recommended intake of potassium is higher than that of sodium; hence, this alternative suits us well.
- Alternative Spices: Luckily for us Indians, our cuisine has a range of other spices that can contribute flavour to our food. So cutting down on salt shouldn’t be much of a problem. One can also explore Thai spices as they are rich in flavour. Some of the spices best known for salt alternatives are –
- Cardamom – When used in combination with cumin seeds and coriander, cardamom adds a unique taste to the food, helping you forget the need for salt.
- Basil – A common ingredient in Indian cooking and easily available in every household, basil not only helps add taste but has multiple health benefits as well.
- Chilli Powder – Widely used in Spanish, Mexican and Indian cuisines, chilli adds a hot and spicy flavour to food.
- Black Pepper – Pepper has a rich aroma which can make food appetizing apart from adding great taste.
- Onion Powder – Onion has a pungent smell but when powdered and used proportionately, it offers a strong taste.
- Lemon Juice – A perfect substitute for salt, lemon contributes a tangy flavour and is rich with vitamin C.
Cutting down on salt can help boost your health and also bless you with a longer life. A popular research article on longevity versus diet points out that people with lower salt intake live longer.
Though this is debatable, the fact that too much salt has harmful effects on the health should motivate you enough to cut down on that extra salt. To create awareness, the ‘World Action on Salt & Health’ group organizes a Salt Awareness Week every year in the month of March. Hence, this is the perfect time for you to stop using the phrase ‘Pass the salt please.’