How to prevent more than 100,000 deaths annually
I related to my daughter the other day that I occasionally have chest pain. She asked me how I felt when I had the pain. I recalled it was something like someone twisting my heart and it was sharp pain. It lasted only about fifteen seconds or the most half a minute, then the pain was gone.
My daughter looked straight into my eyes, saying in a firm and “cold” voice, “Papa, you need to go and have a cardiologist to check on your heart condition. I cannot be sure but it doesn’t sound good.”
I am a Chinese belonging to the Hakka dialect group. My dialect group is famous in taking salty food. I understand from my father, who is now 88 years old, that this habit is deeply rooted because our ancestors used to be very poor and had no money to buy food. Therefore they added much salt to the tasteless food to make it more delicious. This habit passed down generations. If you patronize a traditional Hakka restaurant today, you would inevitably notice that the food is salty.
Salt brings out the flavor in foods. A dish without salt can taste very bare and it may not satisfy your palette. However, too much salt intake can also put you in an undesirable health hazard. Studies have shown that most Americans may be endangering our health by eating an excessive amount of salt. This eating habit is spreading fast in the other continents across the globe.
What are the risks of taking excessive salt? How much is too much?
Medical research shows that too much salt can put us at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. American government recommends that people above two years old should consume no more than 2,300 mg per day of sodium. Translate that to practical living, it means having merely about 1 teaspoon of salt a day! The shocking reality is that an average American takes in more than 3,400 mg a day, which is about 50% in excess of the recommended amount. Further studies reveal that processed and prepared foods are the main culprits which account for about 80% of this total.
So, what shall we do to reduce our salt in-take?
With the processed food industry flooded with items of high salt content, you may think that we are helpless and passive in this big environment. The good news is, as individual consumers, we can adopt a two-pronged approach to improve the situation:
Take steps to change your personal eating habit by reducing your salt and sodium consumption
Take actions to improve the availability of low-salt options in the future
The following are some simple ways to cut back on salt without sacrificing flavor:
1) Cut down slowly but consistently.
Over the many years, Americans have developed the preference of salty foods, it is heartening to know that this unhealthy eating trend is reversing in recent years. To key to successfully reducing salt intake is to cut down salt gradually. If you do not reduce the amount too quickly and suddenly, you won’t notice the difference. After some time, you will cultivate the habit and love for natural flavors of foods.
2) Plan your daily diet.
When you plan your family’s daily diet, it is easier to control the overall salt consumption. When you know that the family is having fast food breakfast (which has high salt content), you can plan to have an oil and vinegar dressed salad for lunch and fish seasoned with garlic for dinner. Yes. Planning daily healthy diet enables you to control the type of food and therefore its salt content intake.
We tend to add salt automatically whenever food is served. Let’s change the habit, make that conscious effort to taste the food first and see if it needs more seasoning.
4) Check the food labels.
Your taste bud may not be as accurate as you think it is. You may be surprised to find out that some food items, such as frozen dinners, that don’t taste salty, may contain as much as 50% of the recommended salt consumption amount for a single day. The golden rule is: Always check the percentage of daily value for sodium on food labels.
5) Reduce your consumption of convenience foods and processed foods.
We already know from research that processed foods and restaurant meals are the culprit in contributing high sodium diet, the natural reaction should be to reduce these consumptions. Some practical things to do are to cook your pasta and rice instead of using boxed mixes; eat fresh or frozen vegetables rather than canned vegetables.
You can still eat tasty meals by experimenting with other spices. Try cinnamon on carrots, ginger on chicken, and lemon on fish.
7) Drink more water.
Therefore we could neutralize the effect by drinking more water. It is recommended that women should drink at least 2.2 liters of water and men 3 liters a day. Drinking water is the best treatment for fluid retention and will help counteract the effects of salty foods.
Public health authorities estimate that reduce salt intake could prevent more than 100,000 deaths annually. This is an astounding news that all of us cannot afford to ignore. The fact is it’s not too difficult to lower the sodium in your diet while still enjoying delicious foods. Just imagine the health benefits of this one simple change can bring to you and your loved ones in the family.