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Cut Down on Salt to Protect your Heart

Updated at: May 03, 2018
Heart Health
Written by: Priyanka NarulaPublished at: May 02, 2018
Cut Down on Salt to Protect your Heart

While having your dinner, how many times do you sprinkle extra salt in food? Do you know how it affects your heart in a negative way?

While having your dinner, how many times do you sprinkle extra salt in food? Do you know how it affects your heart in a negative way? Experts warn that high salt intake can prove dangerous for your heart. Salt, is used in almost all foods we love, chaat paapri, paani puri, momos, and all street foods, if not taken in  moderate quantity, it can pose a big problem for your heart. "Processed food and Indian diet contains a lot of salt that causes hypertension and also becomes a direct reason for heart attacks."  Says Dr. Balbir Singh, Senior Consultant Cardiologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital. Eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure.

High blood pressure which can lead to other heart diseases. Earlier, salt was used as a preservative for foods. Although that's not the case today, salt remains a common ingredient in many processed foods. Salt makes soups spicier and increases sweetness in cakes and cookies. Salt also helps disguise metallic or chemical aftertastes in products such as soft drinks. "The body needs sodium to hold water in the blood vessels. Sodium also regulates water balance in all parts of the body. If too much water is held in the body, the amount of blood increases. If it increases too much, problems will arise," says Rishika Mehta, Consultant Nutritionist.

"The increase in blood makes the heart work harder. The result can be high blood pressure. Other conditions, such as diabetes, can cause high blood pressure. The most common cause is eating too much salt/sodium. When high blood pressure is not controlled, it can lead to a heart attack, stroke or kidney disease," adds Dr. Singh.

Rishika Mehta, suggests some ways to help reduce the salt intake:

  • Don't be too concerned about the exact amount of salt you eat. The aim is to reduce the amount of salt you eat as much as possible, not to keep an exact tally of the amount you eat
  • The best approach is to try to always eat foods with the lowest salt level
  • At first, food without salt can taste bland, but don't give up. It's just the same as giving up sugar in tea. After a few weeks your taste buds will adjust and you will start to enjoy food with less salt. In fact, you'll wonder how you ever ate food that was so salty
  • Don't use salt when you are cooking (or just use a tiny amount). Add just a pinch when the food is on the table
  • Use no-sodium seasonings as well as herbs and spices to add lots of flavor without the salt
  • Buy low-sodium chicken broth and use it to cook with instead of the regular broth that's full of salt
  • Soy sauce has a lot of salt in it. Opt for a low-sodium version instead
  • Use fresh meats and produce when you cook. Fresh food has a lot more flavor and won't need as much salt 
  • Don't salt your pasta or rice water
  • Buy low or no-sodium versions of food
  • Cut down on fast food and salty snacks. Grab some fresh fruit or veggies instead
  • Rinse canned fish and vegetables to remove some of the salt

By implementing just a few of these ideas, you can reduce your sodium intake by quite a bit. At the same time, make sure you drink at least eight glasses of water to help your body remove any excess salt that is in your system.  You can reduce salt intake or even use a substitute for salto  Avoid add-on salt, its not a necessity.

  • Eat fewer salty snacks such as potato chips nuts 
  • Read the "Nutrition Facts" panel on food labels to see how much sodium you are eating
  • Read the label. Low salt or reduced-sodium products to be replace those with high salt
  • Use fresh or frozen vegetables instead of high sodium products
  • Avoid extra salty pickles and sausages
  • Use herbs and spices like garlic powder, oregano, and basil to flavor food and use less salt. Season meat with lemon juice, bay leaf and pepper
  • Limit the use of high-salt soy sauce, and seasoned salt. Look for salt-free herb blends for cooking

"Many people may not be aware that salt is harmful for the heart, but now when this has been proved, parents can try and cut down the high intake of salt right from childhood so that their child lives a long, happy and healthy life," says Balbir.

Read more articles on Heart Health.

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