Hot Nutrition Topic in December - Where is the Salt?
United Christian Nethersole Community Health Service
Preventive Medicine and Clinical Services (PMCS)
Community Nutrition Service (CN)
Ms. Mancy Lo
Senior Community Dietitian
Accredited Practising Dietitian (DAA, Aust)
Accredited Dietitian (HKDA, HK)
Where is the Salt?
Less Salt Helps Your Body Store Calcium
Although it is a known fact that the overconsumption of salt increases the risk of high blood pressure, not many people realize that too much salt also affects the absorption of calcium by increasing calcium losses in the urine. In other words, taking in less salt can somewhat help our bodies store up calcium.
The World Health Organization recommends no more than 5 grams of salt daily (which is equivalent to one teaspoon of salt, or 2000 mg sodium per day). High salt intake has been a long-standing health problem among many Hong Kongers. This has reduced their sensitivity towards saltiness, causing them to use increasingly more salt than current recommendations. Too much salt can put stress on the kidney and the heart, raising the risk of high blood pressure.
6 Tips on How to Reduce Salt Intake at Home
1) Fully utilize natural ingredients
We can add in some strong-tasting vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers to bring out the flavours of many dishes, including scrambled eggs with tomatoes, pan-fry pork chops with onions, steamed minced pork with mushrooms and oats, stir-fry beef with bell peppers. We can also add in herbs and spices such as spring onions, ginger, garlic, pepper and sesame oil, or naturally-sour ingredients such as lemon juice and oranges for flavouring, to replace some of the salt and soy sauce in cooking. This can improve both flavour and appetite.
2) Clever use of white rice or legumes to reduce salt
Adding some white rice or mung beans into your salt shaker can help reduce your use of salt. The rice and beans act as a filter.
3) Steam your fish, or pan-fry with less oil
We can use low-fat, low-salt cooking methods such as steaming with the addition of ginger and garlic to prepare fish. Another method is pan-frying using a non-stick fry pan. If soy sauce is needed for flavouring, it can be diluted with water in a 1:1 ratio, and put on the side to taste.
4) Make adding salt the last step of cooking
Avoid adding salt while you are stir-frying vegetables. Wait until the vegetables have been plated as this ensures that the salt is evenly distributed on the surface and not absorbed by the vegetables, reducing the use of salt.
5) Avoid adding salt into soup
The main point of drinking soup is to enjoy its flavour and not that of salt, so refrain from adding any salt. Instead, make good use of mushrooms, black fungi, kelp, tomatoes, onions, papayas and apples which are excellent and flavourful soup ingredients.
6) Beware of the “silent killers” – processed foods
We have to be extra aware of processed foods high in sodium such as ham, sausages, roasted chicken, Chinese preserved sausages and Chinese cured duck. When shopping for condiments (e.g. tomato sauce, ready-made garlic paste, oyster sauce, satay sauce, spicy bean paste and black bean paste), make sure to check their nutritional labels, especially for their sodium content. According to the Centre of Food Safety, ready-made garlic paste contains 1720 mg sodium per 100 grams. Comparatively, home-made garlic paste made from freshly minced garlic contains only 8 mg sodium per 100 grams. In other words, ready-made garlic paste has 215 times more sodium than home-made garlic paste!
It Takes Everyone to Reduce Salt
‘Salt traps’ may be all around us, but just making a few small changes in your eating habits you can definitely reduce your sodium consumption. Lastly, saltiness tends to accumulate in our mouths, so parents are advised to limit their children’s salt intake. This prevents them from getting accustomed to a high salt diet, causing them to develop a love for salty foods which puts risk on their health.
Want to learn more about nutrition? Feel free to visit our Community Nutrition Service website: http://www.ucn.org.hk/?c=nut_services
Translated by Grace Kwok, HKDA Full Member, Accredited Practising Dietitian (DAA, Australia)