Don’t pass the salt please…

June 25, 2021

Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all - Nelson Mandela

Salt, a ubiquitous component of our diet and daily life, has become a symbol of human dignity and right. Salt gave a strong basis for socio-political revolutions as evidenced by “salt satyagraha” during our struggle for independence. The word “salt” invokes a strong feeling in all of us. Food without salt is unimaginable.

The chemical name of salt is sodium chloride. World Health Organization recommends a salt intake of less than 5 grams (less than a teaspoon) per day for a healthy adult. A survey done in India to assess the salt consumption found that average salt intake per person was 11 grams per day. This means Indians consume excess salt. Our salt consumption is more than two times the daily requirement. The reason for increasing salt is our changing diet habits and style. Advertisements in mass media, endorsement of some food products by sport stars and film celebrities have greatly influenced us to adopt unhealthy food habits. Fast food culture has become a norm. Our leisure time is spent in fast food joints.

What are the problems with excess salt intake? In a healthy person, excess salt intake is linked with high blood pressure. In a person who has hypertension, salt intake can worsen blood pressure control. In a person with kidney or heart disease, excess salt can lead to swelling of legs and other body parts due to water accumulation. Hence, excess salt can harm our health.

What are sources of salt in our diet? Apart from the salt, which is added to during the preparation of food, the other sources of salt are pickle, fast foods, bakery products like chips, salted biscuits, salted butter, pizza, burgers, and carbonated drinks. The meat which is stored in brine solution is also a source of salt in diet.

Communities which consume low sodium diet have lower incidence of hypertension and related illness. Given the substantial benefits of low sodium foods, we must promote consumption of low sodium food. Low sodium foods are easily available and are economical. These include whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, egg, fish and meat. During preparation of food at home, use salt alternatives like flavoured spices and moderate the use of salt. Eat salads without sprinkling salt on them.

When you shop for groceries in the supermarket, buy whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, egg and meat. Steer your shopping cart away from counters displaying packed processed foods, canned foods and carbonated drinks. Resist temptation to buy those attractive coloured bottles with unhealthy carbonated drinks and salty snacks. If you are buying packed or canned foods, read the food label carefully and assess the sodium content in the food. A food with daily value sodium of 10% or more is considered a high salt food. Keep away from these.

To conclude, excess salt consumption has deleterious effects on health. Eat whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruits, egg, fish and meat. Stay away from processed food and cola drinks. On the dining table, do not pass the salt please....






By Dr Manjunath J
Dr Manjunath J is a Consultant Nephrologist and transplant physician. He is Professor and Head of the Department of Nephrology at Father Muller Medical College, Mangalore. He specializes in treating hypertension and kidney related diseases.
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Comment on this article

  • P. Prabhu, India/Canada

    Sun, Jun 27 2021

    The author’s colomn that warns readers that in India we consume too much salt in our daily intake is very timely and highly informative. Even though I relish Indian dishes immensely, I like to tell others that we Indians should start cooking with less salt, sugar and ghee etc. Take the case of N.America, The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. It appears most Indians simply don’t know that marketing divisions of industries that produce processed foods and sugary drinks employ clever marketing techniques to hide actual salt or sugar present in a typical portion! We simply don’t know or realize that deep fried dishes in oil and Ghee, sweet meats like Jilebis, Laddoos, Mithais etc. are dangerously loaded with sugar and saturated fat! To add to this misery we prepare dishes by boiling too long thereby destroying essential nutrients in vegetables. So it is high time we should eat more vegetables and fruits and make dishes that use less salt and sugar. It is also extremely important to teach our children at a young age in schools and make them aware of this vital fact! I applaud the author for this informative colomn and urge him to write more in the future.

  • Jerald Fernandes, Mangalore/Dubai

    Sat, Jun 26 2021

    Dear Dr. Manjunath, Well-written article. You have always made me comfortable by guiding simple steps to keep myself healthy. Every time I visit you, you have always been kind and given the required guidance to keep me healthy until the next visit to you for review. This is an important article one must read to know the unknown, which generally we neglect in this modern world. I have been following this method as advised by you, and I can confirm the exceptional benefits of this method of reducing salt by changing our lifestyle. Thank you for your noble profession.

  • Dr Leo Francis Tauro, Mangalore

    Sat, Jun 26 2021

    Very well written article. Well Informative. Congratulations Dr Manjunath. Keep it up.

  • AJAI RODRIGUES, Mangalore

    Sat, Jun 26 2021

    Dear Dr.Manunath J informative and well written article on the harmful effects of salt. Many Thanks, Enjoyed reading this. Our "salty habits "are hard to break. For the sake of health it is wise to keep away the salt. One can use fresh lemon juice instead of using the salt to give that salty taste to the food. "Eat out culture" is contributing to excess salt overload in us.

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