Welcome to my Healthier Family series! Over the next few weeks, I challenge you to make small nutritional changes to improve the health everyone under your roof. This week we’ll be discussing why it’s essential to cut down on your family’s intake of salt, and how you can do this. I’ve also added one of my favourite low-sodium, high-flavour recipes: Wild Rice Cooked in Kombu (pictured here).
For generations, salt has been used for curing and preserving food, as a currency, an antiseptic, setting dyes in textiles, in production of paper and soap. It’s a versatile mineral. It’s also a hot-button news item, especially when new studies come out linking various health issues (blood pressure, asthma) to our sodium intake.
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The human body needs a daily intake of less than 500 mg of sodium to stay healthy and maintain normal fluid levels, healthy muscle function and just the right acidity or pH of the blood. All fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs and grains contain sodium, but not in considerably high amounts.
But whether we eat packaged or fast foods, or simply sprinkle liberally over a home cooked meal, we consume far more sodium than our bodies need, often to the deficit of our health.
A fast food burger with condiments contains, for example, about 630 mg of sodium. Do you send a ‘Lunchable’ to school with your kids? It contains around 1400 mg of sodium per serving. Ouch.
According to Health Canada, healthy salt intake for a child would be (with the final number representing the upper limit)
2-3 years 1000 - 1500 mg
4-8 years 1200 - 1900 mg
9 - 13 years 1500 - 2200 mg
Adults until the age of 50 should not exceed 2300/day, but as you get older, you should always look at ways to reduce your sodium intake for a healthier body.
Why limit your salt intake?
Excessive sodium intake causes fluid retention in the tissues that can lead to high blood pressure and can aggravate many medical disorders, such as congestive heart failure, certain forms of kidney disease and PMS.
One teaspoon of salt contains about 1600mg sodium, so think about how much you add to cooking and sprinkle over a meal. A recent study published in Pediatrics looked at salt intake and high blood pressure in adolescents. There is concern with children having high blood pressure from consuming fast and package foods. It’s time to cut it out.
Is there a healthier salt?
The salt shelf has expanded over the years to include many varieties, but while these brands differ in texture, flavour and cost, they are all equal in sodium and should be consumed in moderation
- Traditional table salt has had most of its minerals removed, but contains minute amounts of various iodine-containing salts added is known as iodized salt and helps correct iodine deficiency symptoms of thyroid dysfunction
- Kosher salt is ideal for curing meat and crystals are usually larger.
- Sea salt is made from evaporating sea water and what’s left has some trace minerals not found in the two above. Some say that sea salt is healthier than most as it contains some trace minerals, but it has the same sodium content as the rest.
- You can find trendy flavoured rock salts in gourmet food stores, boasting smokey tones, herbal infusions or citrus tones
- Fleur de sel a premium, hand-harvested sea salt collected by workers who scrape only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of large salt pans
Steps to reducing your household’s intake of salt:
1) Read the labels of what goes into your shopping cart. Every one of them. How much sodium per serving and what’s the serving size? If it’s too high, then put it right back. Is there a low sodium competitor, go for it.
2) Stop adding it to food. See what the family thinks as you decrease the amount sprinkled into recipes. If there are complaints, allow a small amount to be sprinkled at the table.
3)Reduce eating out and packaged foods. It’s better for the pocket book and waist line anyway. Look for simple recipes to make at home and ease up on the added seasoning.
4)Use soy sauce instead of salt. It contains slightly less sodium than table salt and a few drops goes a long way.
5)Cook grains like rice and quinoa with kombu, a sea vegetable that’s high in nutrients and only 180mg sodium per piece. Add kombu to stocks and soups to impart trace minerals and give a salty taste, too.
Wild Rice Cooked in Kombu
1 cup wild mixed rice
2 cups water
1 piece dried kombu seaweed
Measure and place rice in a sieve. Rinse thoroughly. Bring water to a boil in a medium sauce pan, add in rice and kombu and cover. Turn down to simmer. Leave kombu in with rice for 15 minutes. Remove and discard.
Do you read labels to see how much salt is in the food you are buying?
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