Evidence shows that people of South Asian descent are at higher risk of high blood pressure and coronary heart disease (CHD). It has been predicted that people of South Asian descent are 30-40% more likely to die prematurely from CHD compared to the average UK population.(2,3) People of South Asian origin are also six times more likely to have diabetes than the average UK population, which doubles the risk of stroke (4) and are 3 -5 times more likely to suffer from end stage renal failure which can be exacerbated by high blood pressure – See more at: Salt and people of South Asian descent.
Indians consume about 3.7 grams of sodium, corresponding to about 9.3 grams of salt per day. This is nearly twice the amount recommended by the WHO. The positive side is that salt consumption has declined slightly in India between 1990 and 2010. There are major regional variations around this average.
Poor people use more of salt to make their small amount of food tasty. Rich get more salt through fast food and packaged food.
It is estimated that hypertension in India will rise from 140 million people in 2008 to nearly 215 million by 2030 with increased risk of premature heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. A national salt reduction programme in India is set to target reductions in blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Evidence has shown that a number of health conditions are caused by, or exacerbated by, a high salt diet. Although the strongest evidence is for the effect that a high salt diet has on blood pressure, stroke and heart disease, there is also a wide body of evidence indicating a link between salt consumption and other conditions.
Salt has been linked to:
High Blood Pressure
Cardiovascular Disease (stroke, heart disease and heart failure)
Kidney Disease & Kidney Stones
Salt is also thought to exacerbate the symptoms of:
Indian Cuisine and Salt:
Indian cuisine in general, has excess salt. The reason being, Indian cuisine has a heavy load of spices, the spice levels in our food masks the effect of salt. Hence we keep adding salt about 40% more in excess than needed for a particular dish, when cooked sans those spices. This is the reason why in Indian cuisine we tend to add excess salt. Sometimes, people start adding salt even without tasting their food.
The next reason why Indians have excess salt in our food is that, our taste buds are tuned that way. If you gradually add less salt, your taste buds will adjust (it takes about 3 weeks) and you will not notice the difference.
Few food items in particular, that we consume on an everyday basis which has high salt content are:
Pickles, chutneys, sauces and ketchups, papads, chips and salted biscuits, savoury items, cheese and salted butter, canned foods (vegetables, dals & meats), bakery products, ready made soup powders, dried salted fish, Chinese food, salted nuts etc. Butter and ghee are both high in salt and fat. Cut these out of your cooking by replacing them with olive or rapseed oil, or use unsalted versions.
A reduction in salt consumption even by 1g in diet daily may help decrease the incidences of death, say University of California-San Francisco researchers at the American Heart Association’s 49th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention. The researchers say that a 3g a day reduction in salt intake could result in 6% fewer cases of new heart disease, 8% fewer heart attacks, and 3% fewer deaths.
How to reduce salt in your food?
Check nutritional information on food labels before you buy a product. Look for the amount of salt (sodium, Na), monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda or soda (sodium bicarbonate), baking powder, sodium benzoate, sodium sulfite, sodium nitrite, etc. present in the product. Understand the meaning of the label:
Low sodium/salt: Less than 120mg sodium/100g of food or not more than half the sodium content of the regular food (whichever is less).
Reduced sodium/salt: Up to 75% of the sodium content of the regular food.
Lightly salted: At least 90mg sodium/100g of food less than regular food and less than 600mg of sodium/100g.
Do not keep salt shaker on the dining table.
Choose fruits and vegetables as snacks, rather than salty snack foods.
Choose fresh, frozen or canned food items without added salts or of reduced salt variety. There are many products available with reduced levels of salt or with no added salt.
Select unsalted nuts or seeds.
Eat less salty foods like chips, pretzels, crisps, salted nuts, salty cheeses, soy sauce, pickles, Bikaneri bhujia, chicken broth, processed meat and fish.
Buy fresh, (plain) frozen or canned vegetables without added salt. Rinse canned vegetables to eliminate some of the added salt.
Select unsalted, fat-free broths, bouillons or soups.
Select fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese with low sodium.
Add spices, herb, garlic and lemon juice in cooking instead of salt to enhance the taste and flavor of your food. Use only half the amount of salt recommended in a recipe.
Reduce eating pickles, they are high in salt.
Buy ready to eat meals with reduced salt. Do not buy packaged foods that contain more than 120mg of sodium per serving.
Avoid using sauces, such as mayonnaise and ketchup, as these are often high in salt.
Choose fresh or frozen fish, shellfish, poultry and meat most often. They are lower in salt than most canned and processed options.
Some drugs contain high amounts of sodium. Look for it.