6 ways to reduce salt in your diet and live longer
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DURING the observance of Salt Awareness Week 2022, held March 14 to 20, the Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) listed some common foods that were high in salt, and said it was looking forward to the implementation of a salt reduction policy to reduce salt consumption in the population.

With the most recent Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey (2017) reporting that approximately one in every 10 Jamaicans consumes excessive amounts of salt/sodium by adding salt at the table or through frequent consumption of salty sauces and processed foods high in sodium, there’s no time like the present to ditch this lifestyle habit.

“Unfortunately, most of our processed foods are high in sodium, with many containing several sources of sodium. More than 60 per cent of packaged foods contain table salt (sodium chloride), and other additives include sodium benzoate, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), brine and soy sauce,” said clinical nutritionist at the Caribbean Institute for Health Research and board member at the HFJ, Dr Suzanne Soares-Wynter, during the week.

“Foods with high amounts of sodium per serving include the ready-to-heat/ready-to-eat foods such as soups and pastries, and processed meats like corned beef and sausages. Most sauces, spreads, dried spices and seasoning have excess sodium, and these are used frequently in food preparation. Even beverages like sports and energy drinks and non-dairy milks can have high sodium. Consumers can easily consume a lot of salt given the wide variety of products with excess salt,” she added.

While sodium plays a critical role in several human bodily functions such as blood volume and pressure regulation, neglecting to monitor and regulate daily consumption can result in people developing a heightened and unhealthy preference for its excess. Diets high in salt are also associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension, and high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease and blindness. It is also a major risk factors for heart disease.

So how can you reduce salt in your diet so you can live longer? Workout developer Mesha-Gaye Wright gives these tips:

1) Desist from adding extra salt. “Your fries, meats and soups do not need the extra seasoning,” Wright says. “Example, I’ve seen people add both pack soup mixes and powdered seasoning to their Saturday soups, when adding the packet soup alone is OK. Worse, I’ve seen people add corned pork and salt beef to these soups, and still go heavy on the seasoning. You may not be able to taste the excess, but that’s too much salt. A rule of thumb is to remember that many foods already contain salt, so you may have to alter your tastes, so you don’t need to add extra.”

2) Use fresh meats. “Deli meats, pre-seasoned meats, bacon, ham and salt-cured meats already have large amounts of salt, so if you don’t have to use them, avoid them,” Wright says. “Instead, buy your meats fresh and season to your liking.”

3) Throw off that can water. “Using canned vegetables and fruits are totally OK, and many times they’re even healthier than fresh, because while the fresh products will lose nutrients as they age, both canned and frozen vegetables are processed within hours of being harvested, which helps preserve the nutrients. But you should not use the liquid that the vegetables are stored in, because it’s a salt brine. So rinse, and add your own spices.”

4) Take time to read. Before throwing those chips, buttered popcorn or that marinara sauce into your supermarket trolley, take a few minutes to read the labels, and check out the sodium content. “We focus a lot on the sugar and fat content, but sometimes the sodium content is even higher than the sugar and fat content,” Wright says. “Also, choose spices that are not named for their salt content — example buy minced garlic instead of garlic salt.”

5) We know it’s nice, but... “Frozen pizza, mozzarella sticks, waffles, hash browns and burger meat are surely nice and convenient, but they’re often chock-full of salt,” Wright says. “If you’re serious about your health, you may want to bypass these and make your own at home, where you can better monitor the ingredients you use.”

6) Everything you’ve learned, can be unlearned. “We learn to love salt, and in the same way we learn to love it, we can learn to unlove it,” Wright says. “Many people with high blood pressure have to make immediate dietary changes, and they get used to it. In the same way, if you cut back on the salt it may be a difficult adjustment at first, but eventually you’ll get used to the change.”

SUZANNE HILL

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