How many of us can claim to know the amount of salt we add in our cooking or the amount our family consumes in a day? How many of us know there is a daily recommended intake for salt? How many of us actually even think about our salt intake?
When we adopt health trends, it is always about shifting from rice to roti, oats for breakfast or reducing oil intake. Salt rarely makes it to this list! In our country the positives associated with salt are plenty-preservation, iodine delivery, gargling for germ kill and in fact in some religious practices salt is given as a blessing! So they clearly outweigh the negatives. In fact the word ‘salary’ is thought to originate from the word “salarium” which means ‘salt ‘as roman soldiers were paid part of their salary in salt! Of course Indian cinema is replete with “I have grown up eating your salt” kind of dialogues. Hence to communicate that salt is classified as one of the four bad nutrients along with Sugar, Saturated fat and Trans fat when consumed in excess, by the World Health Organistion, can be an uphill task indeed!
So are we consuming more salt than required? – the answer is YES! The National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, puts the consumption of salt anywhere between 8-30 grams per day per person though there is no reliable data on how much we actually consume. Yes it is a huge range and most people unfortunately think their salt intake is fine! In an online survey done by Unilever, 96% of the respondents mentioned that their salt intake is satisfactory!
So what is the recommended intake of salt? Both World Health Organsiation and National Institute of Nutrition recommend 5 grams of salt per person per day and this translates to just 1 tsp! The body actually requires the element “sodium” from the salt and this requirement translates to only 2 grams as salt is ~30% sodium! Guaranteed in our country where consumption of salt rich foods – pickles, pappads, chutneys, namkeens is very popular, plus eating out and takeaways being a frequent affair – we are bound to be well above the mark!
So why should we be worried about excess consumption? Yes diabetes and heart diseases get enough attention but not ‘hypertension’. Unfortunately hypertension is not the end but the beginning of a host of health issues – it is responsible for 57% of all stroke incidents and 24% of heart diseases! There are also other complications with kidneys, eyes, water retention etc. Well, all these may sound like adult related issues but do not forget that healthy childhood is the foundation for healthy adulthood!
These facts are worrying but the good news is simple steps at home can easily bring down our salt intake – thankfully in our country salt added during cooking contributes to 50% of our salt intake, unlike the west where it comes from processed foods, so to exercise control is in some sense easier!