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Salty ain't healthy

Avinesh Gopal
Monday, March 11, 2013

The Fiji Times Focus

IT is something that many people cannot go without

when cooking or having their meals. While some use a

small amount of it, others have the habit of even

adding it to cooked food to get a better taste.

But many people do not realise that there are long-term

dangers for adults and children when too much of it is

consumed. We highlight to you today the effects of using

excessive salt and how it can be reduced at home.

TODAY marks the launch of the Ministry of Health's campaign to ensure people consume less salt.

Known as "Cook with less salt: A pinch is all you need", the campaign aims to reduce salt consumption during cooking and at meal times at homes in Fiji.

The overall objective of the campaign is to decrease morbidity and mortality due to chronic non-communicable diseases linked to excessive salt consumption.

It aims to ensure that 30 per cent of Fiji's population responsible for preparing meals for families use half as much salt as they use now in cooking, especially lunch and dinner.

The National Food and Nutrition Centre wants people to cook with less salt, more specifically to change from a five-finger pinch to a two-finger pinch.

The campaign will target schools this week, work places next week, communities in the third week and faith-based groups in the final week.

"Fiji's population must realise that the risk of salt-linked awful illness is not distant but more immediate than people think," the NFNC said in a statement.

"And they must be assured constantly and repeatedly by credible and trustworthy sources that there is a simple step to reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke and it is right there in the home."

The centre said 40 per cent of the dietary salt intake in Fiji was from salt added to food at home, either at the table or while cooking.

It said if children expect food to taste salty when they are young, then this habit would continue into adulthood.

"To make food tasty and palatable, people have developed the habit of heavily sprinkling salt during cooking or at the table, little realising that adding that extra salt can lead to high blood pressure at a very early and productive age.

"High salt intake raises blood pressure and having high blood pressure consistently over a few years can result in a stroke, brain haemorrhage or heart attack."

The NFNC said before adding more salt to food, people should think whether they need to, saying "health should come first".

Furthermore, the centre said salt was also known as sodium chloride and on food labels, sodium was the relevant nutrient.

It said research in Fiji showed that 69 per cent of sodium intake was from processed foods.

As such, the NFNC has urged people to carefully read the nutrition information on processed and canned foods.


Source: National Food and Nutrition Centre

* Cut the habit of showering food with salt.

* Add only a pinch of salt to the food while cooking or none at all.

* Try using salt alternatives like natural spices, coriander leaves, mint leaves,

curry leaves and other herbs.

* Avoid adding salt to the food while eating by using lemon, fresh tomatoes,

pepper or chillies to flavour your food in a healthier way.

* Avoid high salt ingredients such as instant noodles, flavouring, soy sauce,

tomato sauce and Mono Sodium Glutamate, commonly known as Chinese salt.

* Have fruits and vegetables as snacks instead of salty chips and popcorn.

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