World hypertension day 2023 reducing salt intake for a healthier life

April 19, 2023

World Hypertension Day, celebrated on 17th May 2023, aims to raise awareness about hypertension. This awareness includes the severe medical complications, and the importance of hypertension prevention, detection, and treatment of hypertension. Hypertension, or abnormally high blood pressure, affects an estimated 40% of adults. This year’s theme, “Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer” focuses on increasing awareness regarding hypertension.

The catering industry has a significant role to play in promoting healthy eating habits and reducing salt intake is a critical factor in this process. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is a practical approach to addressing hypertension.

The DASH diet is a well-researched and highly recommended eating plan for individuals looking to lower their blood pressure and improve overall health. It focuses on consuming a variety of nutrient-rich foods, while minimizing the intake of high-sodium processed foods, saturated fats, and added sugars

Nutrient-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. Catering companies can cater to health-conscious customers by offering DASH-friendly menu options and contributing to global efforts to reduce hypertension.


The Problem with Eating a High Salt Diet

High-salt diets raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, and heart attack. Excess salt consumption has also been linked to a variety of diseases including kidney disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and can worsen symptoms of Meniere’s disease, asthma, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Although the human body requires less than 1g of salt per day, the global average consumption is 10g. This is more than double the World Health Organization’s recommended daily limit of 5g of salt per day.

The Benefits of Reducing Your Salt Intake

A salt reduction program will have benefits for the entire population. These benefits are regardless of age, economic status, or ethnicity. It is estimated that 2.5 million deaths could be prevented every year if salt intake is reduced to the WHO recommended maximum of 5g per day. Reducing salt intake can lead to a decreased preference for salty foods. Taste receptors become more sensitive to lower concentrations of salt within one to two months.

Catering companies have a unique opportunity and responsibility to promote healthier eating habits by offering low-salt menu options and educating customers about the benefits of reducing salt intake. By focusing on using fresh, high-quality ingredients and adopting innovative cooking techniques, caterers can create delicious and healthy dishes that appeal to a wide range of customers.

Hidden Salt Sources

Most of the salt consumed comes from everyday foods like bread, cheese, processed meats, cereals, and sauces. This hidden salt makes it difficult to control our intake of salt, with many people consuming excessive amounts unknowingly.

Research indicates that it is possible to reduce salt content in various products by as much as 40-50% without affecting taste.

Tips for Reducing Salt Intake

An important first step to reducing our daily salt intake is to identify the sources of salt in the diet, including salt added during cooking or at the table, salt in processed foods, and salt in ready-made foods.

1.  Eat fresh vegetables and unprocessed foods: These are naturally low in salt.

2.  Reduce consumption of processed and packaged food products: These are generally high in salt.

3.  Check food labels: Look a the sodium content and choose low-salt options.

4.  Cook at home more often: This is a good way to monitor the salt content in your meals.

5.  Gradually reduce the amount of salt in your cooking: By doing this gradually, it gives your taste buds time to adjust.

6.  Focus on Flavour: Experiment with a variety of herbs, spices, and seasonings to create flavourful dishes without relying on salt. Fresh herbs like basil, coriander and parsley or spices such as cumin, paprika, and turmeric can add flavour to dishes without increasing the sodium content.

7.  Use Acidic Ingredients: Ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar, and other acidic items can enhance flavours and reduce the need for salt.  Adding a splash of balsamic vinegar to a salad dressing or a squeeze of lime juice to a marinade can make a big difference in taste without adding sodium.

8.  Offer and Consume Salt-Free Options: Caterers can create special menus or dishes that are completely salt-free, allowing customers to control their salt intake. These dishes can be advertised as heart-healthy options, appealing to customers who are conscious of their sodium consumption.

9.  Educate Customers: Providing information about the benefits of reduced salt intake and offering suggestions for lower-sodium menu choices can help customers make informed decisions about their diet Caterers can create educational materials, such as pamphlets or posters, that outline the risks associated with high salt intake and offer tips for reducing consumption.

10.  Collaborate with Local Producers:  Working with local farmers and food producers can help catering companies source fresh, high-quality ingredients that  are naturally low in salt. This not only supports the local economy but also promotes healthier eating habits among customers.

11.  Train Staff: Ensure that chefs and other kitchen staff are educated about the dangers of excessive salt consumption and are trained in techniques to create flavourful dishes without relying on salt. Regular training sessions and. workshops can help keep staff up-to-date on the latest trends in healthy cooking.

12.  Monitor and Adjust: Regularly review and assess the salt content of menu items to ensure that they align with recommended guidelines. Adjust recipes or cooking techniques to reduce sodium content without sacrificing taste.

How do you incorporate DASH diet principles into your menus:

1.  Emphasize Plant-Based Foods: Offer a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the menu, as these foods are rich in essential nutrients and naturally low in salt. Focus on colourful, seasonal produce to create visually appealing and nutritious dishes.

2.  Include Lean Proteins: Offer lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, and legumes. These options are not only lower in sodium but also provide essential nutrients for a balanced diet. When serving red meat, opt for lean cuts and smaller portion sizes.

3.  Choose Low-Fat Dairy: Incorporate low-fat dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese, which provide essential nutrients like calcium and protein without excessive amounts of sodium.

4.  Limit Processed Foods: Avoid using processed and packaged foods in recipes, as these products often contain high levels of sodium. Instead, focus on using fresh ingredients and creating dishes from scratch.

5.  Offer Whole Grains: Whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and quino are excellent sources of fiber and essential nutrients. Incorporate these ingredients into recipes to provide customers with healthier, more filling meal options.

6.  Promote Healthy Fats: Incorporate healthy ats like olive oil, nuts, and seeds into dishes, as they can provide heart-healthy benefits without contributing to high sodium levels.

7.  Monitor Sodium Content: Keep track of the sodium content in recipes and ensure that dishes align with DASH diet recommendations,  which suggest consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day for most individuals, with an ideal limit of 1,500 mg per day for those at higher trisk of hypertension.

World Hypertension Day is a vital reminder to manage our salt intake to prevent hypertension and its associated health risks.

By following the tips above and making informed choices about our diets, we can significantly reduce our salt consumption and work towards a healthier future.

Yours in Wellness
Thandi and the Empact Team

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