Jamaica Gleaner- The mineral sodium, which is present in salt we eat, is essential to the body. The kidneys use it along with other minerals to filter the blood by removing toxins and extra fluids.
But with too much salt in the body, the kidneys can no longer filter the excess fluids, which then build-up in the system and leads to high blood pressure. This has a number of ripple effects, including damage to the kidneys, kidney disease, clogged or blocked blood vessels (arteries) and heart attacks due to blocked arteries, among other very serious health problems.
So this Salt Awareness Week (March 4 – 10), you can make some simple changes to avoid the potentially life-changing effects of excess salt in your diet. Here are five tips that you can use to reduce your salt intake for healthier kidneys, blood vessels and overall health:
1) Cook with less salt. Many Jamaicans use too much salt while cooking as they believe that it adds flavour.
But you can still have tasty food without excess salt. Use herbs, no-salt seasoning blends and spices such as pepper, garlic, onion, celery, scallion, etc. These can help to add flavour to your meals. In addition, avoid adding salt or reduce the amount of salt you add to the water used to cook ground provisions, vegetables, pasta and rice.
2) Pay attention to pre-packaged herbs and seasonings. A lot of pre-packaged herbs and seasonings have added salt and without realising it, you may add these after adding salt when cooking.
3) Pay attention to sauces and pre-made soups. Some sauces and pre-made soups are high in salt (sodium). For example, soy sauce and cup soups are known to be high in salt. Do not overuse these or add them to a dish that already contains salt.
4) Avoid adding salt to your meal while at the table or while eating. Many Jamaicans will add extra salt to breadfruit, after it has been fried, or add salt to vegetables, fruits such as June plum and other foods for flavour.
Try to avoid doing this in order to reduce your salt intake.
5) Pay attention to the amount of salt (sodium) in the packaged foods you buy. Usually the labels on food packages will tell you how much sodium is in the product. Try to buy goods with less salt in them. Similarly, you can avoid eating too many goods high in salt each day.
It is generally recommended that adults who have high blood pressure (hypertensive) have no more than half teaspoon of salt. And remember, most, if not all foods in their natural state contain sodium, so be very aware of the salt you are adding to your food and consuming.