This year, the World Week of Awareness on Salt (WASSH) was celebrated from May 15th to 21st, under the slogan “Reduce the salt in your meals for the good of your heart”, and the World Hypertension Day with the slogan “Measure your blood pressure accurately, control it, live longer”. It is estimated that the Costa Rican population consumes more than twice the daily recommendation for salt established by the World Health Organization (WHO), which suggests consuming less than 5 grams, equivalent to less than 1 level teaspoon of salt per day.
Diseases due to high salt intake
Excessive salt intake is related to the development of high blood pressure, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, represents a possible carcinogen for gastric cancer, and is associated with kidney failure and osteoporosis. The main cause of death in Costa Rica is cardiovascular disease, with arterial hypertension (AHT) being its main risk factor. According to the National Strategy for the Comprehensive Approach to Non-Communicable Diseases and Obesity (ENTO) 2014-2021 of the Ministry of Health, in 2018, 37.2% of the population over 18 years old suffered from HTA.
Reducing the amount of salt consumed by the population can help prevent the development of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), improve quality of life, and reduce costs in health systems. Salt may be hidden among the foods you eat on a daily basis. In industrialized processed products (bottled and packaged), this ingredient is used as a preservative, flavor enhancer and to improve its texture.
According to studies carried out as part of the Salt/Sodium Consumption Reduction Program in Costa Rica, which was prepared by the Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching in Nutrition and Health (INCIENSA) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, determined that 60% of sodium (the main component of salt) that we Costa Ricans consume comes from the salt that is used at home, while the remaining 40% comes from industrially processed products.
The industry must take care of the health of the population
It is important to highlight that the food industry has made significant efforts and has taken actions to reduce the salt/sodium content of its products, to introduce variety to the market and provide consumers with alternatives to take care of their health. Salt is used daily in our homes to prepare meals. It must also be taken into account that many of the ingredients and products used in these preparations contain hidden salt, such as sauces, bouillon, seasonings, cheeses, canned products, among others.
We must also consider the salt intake provided by the preparations we consume outside our home; for example, foods from sodas, restaurants, fast food, mostly made with ingredients with a high salt content.
Your palate can get used to consuming less salt
As salt intake decreases, specific salty taste receptors in the mouth become much more sensitive to lower salt concentrations, and this readjustment takes only 1 or 2 months to occur. This means that less salty foods will be perceived as salty as highly salty foods were before the receptors were reset.
From the College of Nutrition Professionals, we give you a series of recommendations so that you can reduce your daily salt/sodium consumption. In this regard, when buying:
• Try to buy natural, fresh and seasonal foods.
• Always read the nutrition label on foods, check and compare the sodium content listed. Choose foods with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.
• You can recognize a product high in salt when, reading the label and list of ingredients, in the first 3 ingredients it mentions that it contains salt, sodium or monosodium glutamate.
• Use natural ingredients, herbs and spices, such as garlic, onion, cilantro, sweet chili, celery, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil to enhance the flavor of your meals.
• Progressively decrease the amount of salt you use in cooking.
• Avoid the use of condiments, industrialized seasonings and sauces that contain salt.
• Adobe meat with garlic, natural herbs, lemon or olive oil.
• Prefer fresh and natural foods instead of frozen, and industrialized.
• If using canned goods, drain and rinse to remove excess salt.
• Prefer home-cooked foods.
• Do not place the salt shaker, sauces, dressings and preserves on the table.
• Do not abuse salty or smoked meats such as bacon, ham, sausages and bacon.
• Dress salads with lemon, vinegar, olive oil, natural yogurt or fruit pulp.
• Eat fruits without adding salt.
• Do not abuse the consumption of fast food or packaged food and drinks.
Remember to eat a healthy, varied, balanced and nutritionally adequate diet; perform physical activity daily, and consume 2 liters of water a day.