My father has high blood pressure and has been told to eat less salt. How can I cook with less salt?
Eating less salt is beneficial for those suffering from high blood pressure. The chemical name of salt is sodium chloride. The sodium in it helps transmit nerve impulses and contract muscle fibre. You only need a tiny amount of salt — about half a levelled teaspoon — for this. Most snack foods such as sandwiches, smoked and cured meats, canned juices, tinned foods, dry soups, pizzas, frozen foods, ready-to-eat foods and sauces contain high amounts of salt.
Excess salt harms the cardiovascular system by increasing arterial pressure. It also increases the incidence of strokes and
cardiac failure. It interferes with the metabolism of calcium, formation of bones and slows down the process of calcium absorption. This reduces bone mineral density and can lead to osteoporosis later in life. Raised blood pressure damages the arteries of the brain leading to dementia, which is also called vascular dementia. Too much salt leads to bloating, which means water retention. Excess salt also contributes to diabetes, kidney diseases and stomach cancer.
Cut it back
Use natural flavour enhancers. Your favourite dishes can be flavoured with spices, dried or fresh herbs such as black pepper,
cinnamon, turmeric, mustard, aniseed, cardamom, star anise, basil leaves, kasuri methi etc. Use chicken, fish, lean meats, fruits and
vegetables rather than canned, tinned or processed products. Preserved products are bottled in brine (salt and water mixture) and the salt content of brine is almost 100 times more than our daily requirement. Bring out the natural sweetness in vegetables by roasting or grilling them. For more intensity, finish with flavoured oil and a dash of rock salt. Avoid adding salt unnecessarily, for instance while cooking rice, kneading dough, boiling eggs, pasta, noodles or cereals.
Read food labels as these can help you choose foods that have a lower percentage of salt. Many times the amount of sodium and
potassium is mentioned separately on the label. Select foods with the labels: low salt, unsalted, reduced salt or light in salt. Meat and chicken have a high content of salt, so they actually need very little amount of salt while cooking. Switch to rock salt (sendha namak, kala namak, sanchar).
As told by Dr Anjali Mukerjee, a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre