Monday, March 31, 2014

The Salt Shake-up

      Anyone who has high blood pressure must decrease their salt intake drastically. Everyone knows that. What is not really understood is that it is because of our high intake of salt from a young age that we are at risk for heart disease in later years. In fact, as a nation, we average about 9 g of salt per day! Indian medical professionals and nutritionists consider the maximum safe allowance for adults to be 5g.  Studies have also linked high childhood salt intake to risk of developing osteoporosis, respiratory disorders, kidney issues and even stomach cancer in young adulthood.

Age Group

Maximum Allowance of Sodium (mg)

Grams of Salt




7- 18yrs


4 g



5 g

Source: National Institute of Nutrition, 2010

Note - 5 g of salt is equivalent to 1 small teaspoon.

         - 1 g of salt contains 0.4 g of Sodium

     Sodium is an essential mineral. It is required for regulation of blood pressure, maintenance of water and acid-base balancing mechanisms, controls temperature, transmits neural impulses at a cellular level and plays a vital role in absorption of nutrients and molecules across cell membranes.

Symptoms of Sodium / Salt overload in children:

….stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhoea (which lead to dehydration)

….high blood pressure!

….seizures (especially in infants and toddlers)

….increased thirst and water retention (puffiness of skin)

Severe salt overload can lead to brain swelling, kidney damage and even heart failure.

     3 things you need to remember  
a) Maximum allowance is just that - an upper limit beyond which consumption adversely affects health. The actual requirement for every age is just half this maximum number. 

b) Children below 2 years should not be fed any added salt including from processed foods below! You may think their food is bland but they don't. Feel free to introduce other natural flavours and spices. 

c) Salt is just one source of Sodium, there are other hidden sources in our food.....

-  Biscuits, breads and other baked foods, sports drinks and carbonated beverages.

-  Processed foods - instant soups and noodles, snack foods, ready-to-eat foods, batter pre-mixes (dosa / idli / cake), breakfast cereals, muffins, ice creams, sweet yoghurts,etc.

-  Pappads, pickles, chutneys, sauces, mayonnaise, salad dressings, cheese and butter.

-  Fast foods like  pizzas, burgers, fried chicken, salads, subs, manchurians and chaats

-  Restaurant foods right from masala dosa to paneer butter masala and naan.

     [Food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda and powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium benzoate, sodium hydroxide, sodium nitrite, sodium propionate and sodium sulphite - all increase the sodium content of foods to which they are added] 

     There are different varieties of salts – kala namak, sea salt, himalayan rock salt, moon salt, etc.... just check to see whether they contain Iodine or not. Salt is virtually our biggest supplier of this other critical mineral.

     To sum up, while salt does impart flavour, we should realize that food just tastes different with less – it is not 'bland' or 'tasteless'. There is flavour - the natural flavour of the food! You can even use more herbs, spices, lemon juice and other flavourings while cooking to tickle the taste buds. The big secret is that our actual physical daily requirement of salt is so low that even if you leave out salt altogether, you will still glean enough sodium from the natural foods you consume!

     You can calculate your daily salt intake using the calculator at the link below....and bring it down to a reasonable level for your family's long term health.

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