On the Menu: Time to shake off the salt habit
Reducing salt intake can have great health benefits but it may require a new attitude to the food we eat
Oriental chicken and vegetable stir fry
Roast spiced sweet potato and lamb salad with a lemon and mixed seed dressing
We have two inevitable companions in life – “choice” and “change”. The food choices we continually make, add up. A certain eating pattern can help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure. It can also lower your blood pressure if it’s already too high.
Prioritising what dietary habit you most want to change is important when there are a significant number to be made. Some succeed in enjoying a favourite food, but look for healthier ways of preparing and cooking it. Others might simply reduce the portion size or eat a food less frequently.
If your blood pressure is high, your changes might include eating less processed food with added salt, drinking alcohol in moderation, making time to exercise, quitting smoking and perhaps losing weight.
The evidenced-based Dash diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) focuses on reducing blood pressure by eating meals that are low in saturated fat, and high in fruits and vegetables, and that contain moderate amounts of low-fat dairy.
The Dash eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts, and has less saturated fat, red and processed meat, desserts and sugary drinks.
It is higher in potassium, calcium and fibre because of the strong emphasis on eating three low-fat dairy servings and up to nine servings of fruit and vegetables. Eating less salt is also a fundamental part of reducing blood pressure.
Too much salt can cause fluid retention, which increases blood pressure and risk of stroke. The more salt we eat in food, the more we develop a taste for it.
The average daily salt intake in Ireland is high – about 10g in adults. That is about a dessertspoon in size. Although we need some salt in our diets, this intake is well in excess of what we need.
The short-term target is to reduce our salt intake to 6g per day. The target for children is 3g day. That’s why you won’t see any table salt in the recipes below.
Shaking the salt habit:
Add little or no salt when cooking. Avoid adding salt to water when cooking rice, pasta or potatoes – no matter what the pack says. Learn to adapt recipes and flavour food instead with black pepper, herbs, garlic, spices or lemon juice.
Have the black pepper grinder on the table only – no salt.
When shopping, avoid the obvious highly salty foods such as crisps, popcorn, salted nuts, anchovies, smoked fish, bacon/other processed meats and ready meals.