As the holidays approach, many begin to look more closely at their diet to keep weight at bay, since they assume that they will surely put on a couple of kilos, due to the year-end excesses.
Attention is usually focused on the consumption of carbohydrates, sugars and fats, and rarely on salt, a mineral that does not make you fat but can cause damage to our health when we consume more than we should.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), salt intake in adults must not exceed 5 grams per day (the equivalent of about 2 grams of sodium), to reduce blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Reducing your salt intake is not as difficult as it seems, but before seeing how to do it, let’s dispel some of the most widespread myths about the most used product in world cuisine.
1. On a hot day, if you perspire a lot, you need to add more salt to your food
Although it is true that when we sweat we eliminate sodium chloride, the amount is too small for us to need to ingest additional amounts of salt.
If the heat has made you sweat more than usual, it is important to drink plenty of water.
A diet rich in minerals and other nutrients will be enough to recover the salts that you have lost.
In the case of having sweated excessively from exercising, the situation is a little different, but it really depends on how much exercise you have done.
According to the Medical School of Harvard University, in the United States, if you are a manual worker who works an 8 or 12-hour shift, you may lose a lot of sodium per day through perspiration and you can consume more than the recommended amount .
But if you are a generally sedentary person who does an average of 30 minutes of exercise a day, and you follow a typical diet, chances are that you are already consuming too much salt, so there is no reason to add more in your diet.
2. Food without salt does not taste like anything
This is only true initially, if you are used to eating with a lot of salt.
It’s because taste buds take a while to get used to.
However, once you get used to eating less salty foods, you may even enjoy your food more and discover new flavors that you had not noticed before because of excess salt.
Cooking with less salt (or without it) is also a good excuse to experiment with familiar spices and to dare to try others that are less familiar to you.
3. Foods with high salt content taste quite salty.
Many foods high in salt may not seem salty to you because they may have other ingredients, such as sugars, that mask the salt.
The best way to understand how much salt is in food is to read the sodium content on the labels and not simply get carried away by its taste.
You should also bear in mind that there are foods that can contribute a lot of salt to your diet, but not because they are necessarily high, but because we tend to eat them in large quantities, explains the British National Health Service (NHS, for its acronym in English) such as bread or cereals for breakfast.
4. Only the elderly should worry about the consumption of salt
It is not like this.
According to the WHO, eating a lot of salt can raise blood pressure at any age.
But also, if we accustom children not to eat with a lot of salt, we make sure that they do not develop a predilection for salty foods.
5. Reducing salt can be bad for your health
Sodium, the key element found in salt, is essential for our body to function properly.
But the truth is that, historically, most populations have ingested more salt than recommended.
Reducing salt is unlikely to negatively affect your health because, in fact, it is very difficult to eat little salt: most of the foods we eat daily contain salt.
6. Consuming less than 5 grams as suggested by the WHO (or 6 grams as recommended by some governments) is impossible
Those who put salt to everything put their hands to the head when they hear that the recommended daily amount is a little less than a teaspoon.
But if you put your mind to it, there are many things you can do to reduce your intake. Here are some tips that you may find useful:
- Do not abuse sauces, especially soy sauce, which are usually high in salt. Tomato sauces tend to have less salt than those that include cheese, olives, bacon, or ham.
- Replace cereal bars, potato chips, and other high-salt snacks with vegetable sticks, unsalted nuts, or other unsalted foods.
- Replace salt in meal preparation with fresh herbs and spices, as mentioned before.
- Never add salt to food without tasting it first.
- Don’t have a salt shaker on the table (sometimes the laziness of getting up to look for the salt works in your favor).
- If you are going to consume processed products, compare the labels before you buy and choose those with the lowest sodium content.
- 6 signs that indicate you’re eating too much salt
- 10 alternative ingredients to salt to elevate the flavor of your meals
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