Salt or sodium chloride has been traditionally used mainly to preserve food. However, modern preservation methods have made it redundant. Yet food manufacturers continue to supply processed foods with added salt because we have become accustomed to the taste.

Excessive salt consumption causes a significant rise in blood pressure, which is a major cause of stroke and heart attacks. Government recommendations are to decrease our salt intake to 6 grams per day (just one teaspoonful). Average blood pressure has fallen in countries which have launched public awareness campaigns to decrease salt intake and where potassium chloride is used in baked and processed foods.

Salt Sugar

Reduce Salt in Heart-Healthy Diets

As well as decreasing sodium, increasing potassium seems to be important in decreasing blood pressure. Potassium is found in abundant quantities in fruits and vegetables.

We are also born with a sweet tooth and while sugar intake is not directly associated with heart disease, sweet foods can add unwanted calories to the diet and can also contain saturated fat. In a cardioprotective diet, natural sweetness is provided by sumptuous fruits of all kinds, fresh, tinned and dried, all with the added bonus of providing antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals such as potassium.

Key Action Points to Reduce Salt and Sugar in the Heart

Avoid adding salt to your cooking and to your food at the table. Rather enhance the natural flavors of your dishes with aromatic vegetables, herbs, and spices such as garlic, onions, pepper, lemon juice, vinegar, ginger, chilies, and tomatoes.Steaming and microwaving vegetables are the best ways to cook vegetables to retain all their top nutrients, flavor and taste.

Serve as soon as they are cooked. Use fresh foods wherever possible and avoid processed foods. A huge amount of our salt intake (75%) is already in the food we buy. Check the label for the salt content of packaged foods and choose foods which contain less than 1.5g salt (0.6g sodium) per 100g.

Check for GDAs or traffic light signposting and keep to foods in the green and amber colors most of the time. If you only know how much sodium is in a food, multiply this amount by 2.5 to calculate the salt content.

For example, 1g of sodium per 100g = 2.5g salt per 100g. Try to keep your daily salt intake to below 6g (2.4g sodium). Remember: some foods that do not appear to be salty, such as bread and some cereals, can contain large quantities of salt. Check the labels. Rock salt and sea salt are still salt and should be avoided.

You could use a salt substitute which contains less sodium, to wean yourself off the salt habit. Stocks and gravies can be made from salt-free, homemade ingredients, and purée vegetables such as onions, garlic, tomatoes and aubergine with a little wine to make sauces.

For speed, ‘diluted’ stocks and gravies can be made by using half the usual quantities of stock cubes or gravy granules.

Look out for vegetables, fish and beans tinned in water rather than brine or labeled ‘no added salt’ and choose lower-salt varieties of baked beans, bread, yeast extract, bouillon, tomato and soy sauce. Feed your sweet tooth with natural sweetness from the fresh, tinned, frozen or dried fruit.

Look out for low-sugar varieties of squash, fizzy drinks, jams and marmalades, jelly, baked beans, tomato sauces and fruit tinned in natural juices. Salty and sugary solutions can be removed from tinned produce by rinsing in a colander under the tap.

If you opt for simple and low-fat cooking, check out Healthy Easy Food Recipes website for more nutrition diet recipes.

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