Cut down on the salt habit for better health

Sprinkling salt on food creates a burst of flavor for the taste buds and sends signals to the brain’s focal pleasure center. It is no wonder that Filipinos love adding generous amounts of salt to almost everything they cook. This enchantment for salt is understandable since salt is abundant in the country. After all, the Philippines is surrounded by oceans and seas. 

Pinoys also enjoy using salt to ferment and preserve food. For example, salt is used to make dried fish like tuyo and other dried seafood, itlog na maalat (salted egg), and cured meats (tocino, longanisa, etc.). 

Pinoys are also fond of salty condiments and dipping sauces such as toyo (soy sauce), patis (fish sauce), and bagoong/alamang (fermented fish or shrimp paste) to come up with a full flavor.

  • Toyo is a main component of adobo, the quintessential Pinoy dish. Pork and/or chicken are marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and vinegar. Soy sauce is also added to pancit, tapa, pork barbecue, fried rice, and sisig. Toyo is also used in many dipping sauces such as toyomansi, the ultimate sawsawan.
  • Bagoong is usually found in most Filipino cupboards since many local delicacies are paired with bagoong such as kare-kare and mangang hilaw (greed mango). It is also a component in favorite Pinoy dishes like pork binagoongan, pakbet, and bagoong rice. 
  • Patis is used in place of salt when cooking a variety of Filipino soup dishes, such as tinola, nilaga, and bulalo.

Too much salt is bad for you

The human body needs a small amount of sodium to transmit nerve impulses, enable the muscles to contract and relax, and promote the right balance of water and minerals. However, excessive amounts of salt are bad for your health. 

Too much salt in your diet can raise your blood pressure, which can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney stones, and other kidney diseases. It can also result in calcium losses that can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Excessive salt consumption is also known to trigger migraine, a throbbing headache, in some people. Too much salt can also retain fluid and result in the bulging of the veins in the anus which can make hemorrhoids worse. In addition, high salt intake has also been linked to stomach cancer. Keep yourself and your family safe and protected from health emergencies by getting a Health Assure Plus Family Plan.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adults should not consume more than 5 grams of salt per day. However, the average Pinoy consumes more than twice WHO’s recommended limit – about 11 grams of salt per day (4,263 milligrams of sodium). This excessive salt consumption is one of the reasons why strokes and cardiovascular diseases are prevalent among Filipinos.

WHO’s ‘Shake the Salt Habit’

WHO’s salt reduction strategy based on the SHAKE acronym:

  • Surveillance – measure and monitor the consumption of salt
  • Harness industry: develop foods and meals that contain less salt
  • Adopt labeling and marketing – accurate labeling helps provide important information to consumers and enables them in making informed purchase decisions
  • Knowledge – promote awareness through education and communication to empower people to reduce salt consumption
  • Environment – create an environment conducive to healthy eating

How to reduce salt consumption

By making these simple changes, you can reduce your salt intake and improve your health.

  • Cut back on chips, fast food, canned food, instant noodles, ready-made sauces, and processed food. 
  • When buying groceries, compare nutrition labels and choose food items that have low sodium content.
  • Buy more fresh ingredients than canned or frozen. 
  • Make it a point to cook more meals at home, so you can control the amount of salt used in your dishes. 
  • Use a variety of herbs and spices like basil, cloves, chili powder, parsley, rosemary, nutmeg, cinnamon, dill, ginger, oregano, thyme, and sage to your food instead of salt to enhance the flavor of your dishes.
  • Go easy on the sawsawan and other table sauces, since most of them are high in salt.

Reduce salt consumption for a healthier you

Yes, salt enhances the flavor of food but too much sodium can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of stroke, cardiovascular diseases, and kidney diseases. Reducing salt consumption by following WHO’s ‘Shake the Salt Habit’ and the other recommendations in this article can improve your health and overall well-being.

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