Caption: It is possible to enjoy delicious-tasting food and still reduce your salt intake at the same time – whether you eat in or eat out. Magdalin Cheong, Head/Deputy Director form the
Department of Dietetic and Food Services at
Changi General Hospital (CGH), a member of the
SingHealth group, shares how.
Why is reducing your salt (sodium) intake important?
To maintain normal fluid balance, your body needs only a small amount of salt. The recommended amount of sodium intake is less than 2,000mg per day, equivalent to
one teaspoon (5g) of salt. Singaporeans on average consume approximately 8.3g of salt daily or about 1.5-2 teaspoons of salt.
Excess sodium acts like a sponge and retains water in your body. This, in turn, leads to an increase in blood volume and raises your blood pressure. Hence, excessive sodium intake is a key risk factor of high blood pressure, which increases the risks of stroke, heart attack, and heart and kidney failure.
Foods to eat and ways to lower blood pressure without medicine
The problem is many are unaware of the excess sodium they consume, especially when eating out, as most of the sodium comes from the salt and sauces that are added during food processing and meal preparation.
Ways to enjoy delicious foods and still reduce your sodium intake
When cooking at home/eating in
Choose fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry and fish.
Limit processed foods, e.g. canned, salted, cured, smoked and pickled foods, and convenience and pre-packaged foods.
Season food with natural flavourings, such as:
Cook with tomatoes, corn, mushrooms, celery and carrots to enhance flavour naturally.
- Fresh or dried herbs (e.g. parsley, coriander, mint, basil, onions, garlic, ginger, chives and spring onions).
- Spices (e.g. cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, pepper, curry powder, five spice powder and chilli).
- Vinegar, fresh lemon, lime and fruit juices.
- Sesame oil and olive oil.
Taste your food first before adding salt and/or sauces. If more flavouring is needed, add sparingly. To let your tastebuds adapt to less salty food, gradually reduce the amount of salt and/or sauces added during cooking and at the table.
Substitute salty snacks, such as potato chips and salted nuts, with fresh or dried fruits and unsalted nuts.
Nutrition labels – How to make sense of it and why you should pay attention to the first 3 ingredients
When eating out
- Ask for less or no gravy.
- Ask for less or no salt or sauces added during cooking.
- Skip the soup when having soupy dishes.
- Limit sauces and avoid adding extra salt at the table.
- Choose plain rice instead of flavoured rice.
Also, reduce your salt intake when grocery shopping
- Read labels for comparison. Choose products that contain less sodium, such as those labelled as "reduced salt", "low in salt", "no added salt" or "salt-free".
- Choose products with the Healthier Choice symbol as they contain less sodium than similar products.
- Avoid products that list salt or sodium as one of the first three ingredients in the ingredient list.
- Salt substitutes may help you cut back on sodium. However, they are high in potassium and may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions. Check with your doctor, dietitian or pharmacist before using salt substitutes.
Salt – How much exactly is in our everyday foods and seasonings
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