Is there a correlation between salt and hypertension? Studies have shown that up to eight out of ten people are exceeding their recommended daily salt intake. The daily recommended level of salt intake for adults is 5 gram a day. The average intake usually exceeds this level by more than sixty percent. Excessive consumption is a risk factor for the development of high blood pressure.
Twenty percent or more people aged between 18 to 69 has hypertension, which can cause stroke, heart attack and kidney failure. Known as the “silent killer”, salt sensitive hypertension often does not display symptoms, even in severe cases. One in three deaths is caused by heart disease and stroke. Worse, people who are diagnosed with hypertension are getting increasingly younger.
A little salt may enhance the flavour of food. Salt has flavour-enhancing properties that can make even the most unpalatable foods taste better. How food tastes is a sensory experience comprising five primary qualities – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, an savoury or umami. The savoury taste that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is called umami.
Sweetness is a simple sensation. Sugar substitutes are easy to make. Salt does not just introduces a salty taste to food. It can make one perceive that the food one eats is thicker, fuller, sweeter and more balanced. Salt is also capable of masking metallic or chemical off=notes, and it also suppresses the bitterness of certain compounds found in various foods.
Because of this, giving up salt is hard. However, we all have to learn how to give it up, as over-consumption can raise blood pressure, which in turn is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Young working adults tend to consume more salt, as they are likely to eat out for most of their meals. Men generally consume about thirty percent more salt than women.
Most of the salt we consume comes from table salt and sauces and processed foods. Only about three percent comes from naturally occurring salt in raw food such as meats and vegetables. There is this popular belief that the risk of hypertension may be lowered by ingesting sea salt. However, according to The Mayo Clinic and Australian Professor Bruce Neal, the health consequences of ingesting sea salt or regular table salt are the same.
Now that we know the food sources that are contributing the most to our salt intake, going on a low salt diet for hypertension is easy. Simply eliminate our intake of fast and processed foods, eliminate or reduce our intake of table salt and sauces. Avoid foods that are salt-preserved or cured. Refrain from eating potato chips while watching television.
However, staying on a low salt diet for hypertension is less easy. Many of us will start imagining that we have to remain on a diet comprising of mostly tasteless, bland and unappetizing food for the rest of our lives. The secret to staying on a low salt diet for hypertension is to make food substitutions.
Flavour food with herbs, spices and garlic instead of salt. Introduce strong tasting foods such as carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, celery or vegetable extracts into your dishes so that you need not use salt to flavour the dish. You may also make your own broth by boiling soy beans, chicken or pork bones, anchovies or shellfish and use the broth to prepare your meals. When eating out, ask for less gravy. Do not add extra salt or sauces.
When shopping for food, be sure to read your labels. Opt for low-salt, sodium-free or low-sodium alternatives, and avoid canned soup which tend to contain monosodium glutamate. Cut down or eliminate foods which contain “flavour enhancers” which tend to be high in sodium. You’ll find that over time, as your body starts adjusting to a lower sodium intake, staying on a low salt diet for hypertension is no longer difficult.