Are you worried about your salt intake and want to replace your regular table salt with a healthier alternative? Then it would be best if you read this article.
WHO recommends an intake of less than 5 gm of salt per day for Indians. But studies show that Indians consume around 11 gm of salt per day, which is more than double the recommended limit set by WHO.
A high salt intake can be detrimental to one’s health in many ways. It can increase the chances of cardiovascular diseases, damage some major organs like the kidneys, liver or pancreas, increase blood pressure and cause much chaos. That said, we aren’t advising you to banish salt from your plate and life altogether. It would be unthinkable to get on with life - both inside and outside the kitchen - without salt.
Why do we need salt in our diet?
Abandoning salt would mean that your food will taste bland and your body will be devoid of two vital minerals - sodium and chloride (the main components of salt). Our body needs these minerals to maintain proper nerve and brain functions. Sodium and chloride also help in electrolyte balance within the body. So what can you do? You have to learn to limit your salt intake or look for healthy alternatives to your table salt.
Tips to control and measure your salt intake
- According to the WHO, an average Indian’s salt intake should be less than 5 gm a day, equal to one teaspoon. So before you start your day in the kitchen, remove one teaspoon of salt in a small bowl and keep it aside. Make sure you use only that amount of salt for your entire day’s cooking. It might be challenging to stick to the measly portion, but it is for your and your family’s benefit.
- Try to enhance the flavour of your food by adding different herbs - parsley, cilantro, lemongrass, oregano - so you are not dependent on table salt alone for a lip-smacking taste out of your food.
- Don’t add salt to your cooked meals to enhance the taste. Stop this practice NOW.
- Check the labels of the condiments you use. Some of them are loaded with sodium; try avoiding such types of condiments. It is better to make your own masalas - grind dhaniya, jeera, whole garam masala and store them in air-tight containers. Trust us; it is worth the extra effort.
- Avoid having sauces with your food, pakoras and omelettes as they are overloaded with sodium.
- Avoid the hidden sodium bombs - right from your papad, pickles, bakery products - everything is high in sodium content. Just with two extra papads, you will exceed your daily intake by more than half.
- Don’t keep a salt shaker on your dining table; you might never know when you will add excess salt to your food absentmindedly.
The salt that we commonly use is called table salt, which is processed and refined. Sometimes, table salt is also fortified with iodine to counter iodine deficiencies common among many Indians.
The other kinds of salts that you can opt for are:
Black salt or kala namak: It is reddish black in colour and is also known by Himalayan black salt. The process of preservation of this salt is different from that of regular table salt. Himalayan black salt is preserved with assorted spices, charcoal, healthy seeds and tree barks, which have medicinal properties. It is kept in a hot oven for a full day, then allowed to cool inside the oven. It is allowed to rest for hours in the oven until the salt particles absorb all the beneficial nutrients completely. It is good for people who suffer from heartburn, bloating, constipation, stomach cramps and spasms.
Himalayan pink salt or sendha namak: Rose pink in colour, sendha namak is a kitchen favorite among many Indians for its nutritional value. It is known to have around 84 minerals and nutrients in it. It is also one of the purest forms of salt mined in the Himalayan region. It has many medicinal qualities, and helps to keep one healthy in a lot of ways - including maintaining blood sugar levels, improving the pH balance of the blood, reducing muscle cramps, inducing sleep, and keeping respiratory infections at bay.
Kosher salt: It is rough, flaky and grainy in texture but is one of the best substitutes for regular table salt. It is marginally higher in nutritional value compared to table salt. Another benefit is when used for cooking, it gives your food a distinct flavour. You will also need less amount of kosher salt to flavour your food. The downside is unlike table salt, kosher would not have any iodine fortification.
Sea salt: It is minimally refined and is produced by evaporating seawater. It also contains trace elements like potassium, iron and zinc. Sea salt is also high in iodine content. When had in the right quantities, sea salt can help to regulate blood pressure, improve digestion, prevent muscle cramps, reduce water retention and more. It is also low in sodium content and so in demand among health freaks.
Smoked salt: As the name suggests, this salt is derived after undergoing a slow, smoking process over the wood fire where typically the wood is taken from the bark of pine, apple, hickory or alder trees. It is usually preferred for flavouring meat and other tuber vegetables due to its smoky flavour. More than its nutritional value, this salt is popular as a flavouring agent among chefs.
Celery salt: This salt is gaining immense popularity in Indian kitchens. It is a combination of table salt and dried celery seeds or stems. It is beneficial for people suffering from joint pain or severe conditions like gout. It also helps to maintain blood pressure and keep cholesterol in control.
A word of caution: Remember, salt taken in any form needs to be taken in moderation. Try not to exceed the daily intake limit set by WHO. Of course, you can replace your table salt with other nutritionally dense salts but don’t go overboard with your salt consumption. Remember the saying - too much of a good thing.