Is salt really that important?

YES! Limiting salt is very important, especially for South Asians with high blood pressure. People of South Asian descent are particularly sensitive to the effects of too much salt and therefore are at higher risk of health conditions such as coronary heart disease and stroke.Salt has many negative effects on health. Of these, salt is one of the most important risk factors for high blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure as well as stomach cancer, osteoporosis, and renal failure. High blood pressure is a silent killer, and usually has no obvious symptoms. In addition, once we are diagnosed with high blood pressure, our bodies hold onto the sodium more, further having a negative effect on the blood pressure.

Where does the salt in our diets come from?

In the North American diet, about 75% of salt comes from processed foods such as: pre-packaged foods like frozen pizza, fast foods (french fries, burgers, hot dogs and deli meats), canned goods (soups) and snack foods (potato chips, french fries, salted nuts). Interestingly, in the South Asian population, in addition to the processed foods, a large amount of the salt consumed is added during cooking or at the table. Many add salt to their food without even tasting it first! In South Asian cooking, the true level of salt added to food is often disguised by the hot spices used, or in the prepared spice mixtures available, such as MDH. Some research shows that South Asian people consume very high quantities of salt, almost 10 grams per day – this is almost three times the daily need for adults.

What can you do?

Remove the salt shaker from the table, or substitute it with fresh herbs and spices. Reduce the amount added during cooking. If the food still tastes good, the salt is still too high. When your food tastes bland to you, then you have reduced the salt. If you gradually add less salt, your taste buds will adjust (after only about 3 weeks) and you will not notice the difference. Sea salt, rock salt and garlic salt have the same negative effect as table salt and should all be avoided. Most sauces and achars used at the table are also very high in salt, e.g. Pachranga, chilli sauces, tomato ketchup and soy sauce. Look for reduced-salt versions or use less. When cooking, do not add salt to the water used for cooking vegetables, pasta and rice. Add herbs and spices to boost the flavour. Reduec high-salt snacks such as nachos, chips, french fries, salted nuts, and South Asian snacks such as namkeen, Kurkure, and pakoras. Check food labels when you are in the grocery store. Find the Sodium and aim for less than 10% DV

Butter and ghee are both high in salt and fat. Cut these out of your cooking by replacing them with olive, or canola oil. Choose fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and natural foods prepared from home. Using herbs and spices – both fresh and dried – in your cooking is one of the best and most flavourful ways to help you lower your salt intake. Enjoy seasoning your foods with herbs and spices