I do not have a precise answer to this question but salt is definitely revered in the company of killers. When heart and blood vessel diseases claim over 17 million lives each year worldwide and hypertension is one of the leading modifiable risk factors (the other factors are uncontrolled diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of adequate physical activity and cigarette smoking) for heart and blood vessel disease then I leave you to work the math since added salt is very often associated with hypertension.
Not everyone reacts to salt in the same way but for the majority of us anything more than half a teaspoon of salt a day (includes what we cook with, those in our snacks and processed food)
No one is born with a craving for salt, we learn this as we grow and keep eating more salt by the day. Many of us eat much more salt than we need and we are “rewarded” with high blood pressure, heart failure and other inconveniences related to fluid retention.
Do you add extra salt to cooked food? Do meals prepared at home come out of a box or can? Do you eat out of home often? A yes answer to any of the questions could mean you may be having too much salt. Is it not time to shake off this salt habit? You are probably counting your calories to lose weight and exercising as well so why not watch your salt intake? It could be the cause of your difficult to control blood pressure.
Salt like many other things is only useful when taken in moderation; we can’t live without it but too much brings a host of troubles. Salt may be obvious as in what we cook with but often times it is hidden. Who would have thought that many processed foods including canned foods such as corned beef, ketchup and some salad dressings contain loads of salt?
Two elements; Sodium and Chlorine make up salt and the sodium is often the centre of controversy. Excess sodium stays in body tissues and holds extra water causing swelling and raising blood pressure. The elevated blood pressure then puts a strain on the heart. You may be aware that increased blood pressure affects almost all organs and this includes: the eyes, the brain, the kidneys and even the blood vessels.
Invariably people who eat a lot of salt have a high probability of developing hypertension and that may also be another reason for having high blood pressure running through some families. The answer may be quite simple; most family members have similar eating patterns or tastes so everyone may be prone to an increased-salt diet leading to elevated blood pressure over time. Many artificial flavours that we use in cooking also contain sodium, so imagine the harm you do when you add some of these flavours to food that you have already added your usual amount of “salt”. The salt story does not end here. Excess salt intake has been linked with osteoporosis, dementia/forgetfulness and even Alzheimer’s.
It is interesting to watch people eat in restaurants and at home; some people will actually sprinkle salt over their food after almost every bite. People eating in restaurants will use the salt on the table aggressively probably making sure they are recouping every pesewa spent on the meal. Be careful you may be paying more on medication soon. If your food tastes like there is a salt shortage, thank God and eat as-is. It is an outright CRIME to add salt to already cooked food no matter how bland it may taste. This last statement lays the fact bare; all restaurants that leave extra salt on a dining table are involved in crimes against humanity. You are not a killer only when you draw a gun or knife to kill, you may use a “slow poison” such as a daily dose of extra salt. We will probably need some human rights activists to help us fight this war. I am really looking forward to the day that salt on restaurant tables will be banned. No matter how particular you are about the salt content of the food you cook, if food manufacturers and restaurants are not regulated when it comes to the allowed salt content then the battle is only half won. If we are able to reduce our salt intake to less than half a teaspoon a day (including all the hidden salt), it will be enough to significantly reduce the new cases of hypertension and by extension other heart diseases and complications of hypertension will also be reduced. This simple act will save our country millions if not billions of Ghana cedis each year.
Reducing Salt Consumption
• Never add salt to cooked food
• Read food labels and avoid those with salt or high salt content (watch sodium)
• Eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables; they do not need added salt and they also contain potassium that lowers blood pressure.
• If you need snacks, choose unsalted ones.
• Flavour foods with garlic, onions, fresh herbs and lemon instead of salt
• If you have to add salt to food while cooking, add only sparingly.
Excess salt does not only cause diseases, it also drains our pockets as well as the national coffers as we try to control the damage it has caused. Winning the war against salt needs us to be more proactive; before you put anything in your mouth think about the salt (Sodium) content and make a smart decision. You could be saving your life and that of others as well as creating wealth just by controlling salt intake.
Now I throw the question back to you; is salt ENEMY NUMERO UNO?
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, ENSURE HYGIENE, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials Ltd/ St Andrews Clinic/Mobissel
Dr. Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.
Thought for the week – “The taste for salt is not inborn. Saltiness is something we’ve learned and eating salty foods fuels the craving”.
1. Health by Choice Not Chance – Aileen Ludington & Hans Diehl
2. Shaking the Salt Habit – Jennifer Nelson & Katherine Zeratsky