Last Updated on 2022-10-03 , 11:37 am
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the recommended daily sodium intake is 2,000mg or less.
However, a Singaporean consumes an average of 3,600mg of sodium daily, or 1.5 teaspoons of salts, and the authorities in Singapore are doing something about it.
You can watch this video to the end for a summary of HPB’s “war against salt”:
Consequences of High Sodium Intakes
This is the part where the figurative riot act is read.
Regular table salt, which is sodium chloride, is made up of 40% sodium.
Sodium is a necessary component in our diet as it regulates our blood pressure.
However, we only need about 500mg a day to sustain our vital functions. This is about a quarter teaspoon of salt.
Excessive sodium consumption results in a higher sodium concentration in the blood and it causes water retention, which raises our blood pressure and strains the blood vessel walls.
Think of the relationship between blood pressure and your blood vessel walls like an open and a hose. If you turn the tap too far and there is too much water pressure, the hose will spoil quicker or the hose might “burst” and detach from the faucet.
In order to cope with the stain, our arterial walls thicken but this also causes the space inside our arteries to become narrower.
This may lead to the rupturing of blood vessels, the formation of blood clots, which can result in heart attacks or strokes.
For the same reasons, high blood pressure is a high-risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
According to the 2020 National Population Health Survey, more than one in three Singaporeans have hypertension, which is an increase from one in four in 2017.
How Can You Reduce Your Salt Intake?
First, we need to understand where most of our salt intake comes from.
- 75% of sodium intake comes from salt, sauces, and seasonings in meal
- 25% comes from processed foods.
Singaporeans love our soy sauce and oyster sauce too much, clearly.
The Health Promotion Board (HPB) deduces that there has been an increase in sodium intake among the population because people have been eating out more.
Therefore, much like our sugar intake, the solution to this problem is simple in theory but difficult in practice.
We need to change our dietary choices to healthier alternatives.
Regardless of whether you are eating out or cooking, try your best to avoid processed foods.
If possible, instead of choosing the sausages at the cai peng stall, go for the steamed fish or herbal chicken.
In an effort tor reduce sodium intake, the board will be introducing a greater variety of lower-sodium sauces and seasonings.
Keep an eye out for these lower-sodium alternatives and always check the sodium content on the bottle labels!
Likewise, rather than picking up regular table salt, go for the salt alternatives.
Rather than picking up your regular table salt, go for salt substitutes that use potassium chloride.
In salts that are substituted with potassium, it contains about 1,500mg of sodium per teaspoon or less.
The added benefit of using potassium chloride is that it can increase your potassium intake, which helps to relax the walls of blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.
You can’t miss it as you are browsing the aisles, because the packaging tends to have “LESS SODIUM” printed on them.
If you want to be posher though, you can always go for Himalayan sea salt or kosher salt.
These posher alternatives contain 1,900 to 2,000mg of sodium per teaspoon.
Surprisingly, MSG—otherwise known as monosodium glutamate—has a 12% sodium content, which is much better than regular salt.
For more information about MSG and why it is healthier, watch this video until the end:
That being said, you should still refrain from eating too much instant noodles.
Because each packet of instant noodles still has 1,600mg to 2,000mg of sodium, which practically maxes out your sodium intake for the day.
HPB also didn’t rule out the possibility of implementing “sodium tax” for foods higher in sodium.
Is There A Difference In Taste?
This is like the frozen chicken versus chilled chicken conundrum again.
Lower sodium salts and regular salt tastes the same.
Nearly 150 catering companies have already switched to low-sodium salts and sauces, and they noted that there was no need to “tweak” their recipes because changing the salts and saucers to lower-sodium alternatives did not change the taste.
The customers of these catering companies did not notice any changes and they did not receive any negative reviews.
On Wednesday (28 Sep), Health Minister Ong Ye Kung uploaded a TikTok video where he did a blind taste test to see if he can differentiate between the dishes that were made with regular salt and low-sodium alternatives.
Together with Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam, they tried three dishes: mee siam, braised tofu, and briyani chicken.
Blind taste test: Regular salt vs lower sodium salt. Let’s see which tastes better. #healthiersg
Although they managed to identify the dish that used the lower-sodium alternative for the first two challenges, they commented that they practically tasted the same, and it was a little less salty at most.
This might not be a bad thing, honestly, because sometimes hawker stalls over-season their food.
Yes, it’s undeniable that lower-sodium salt is more expensive than regular salt, but a normal family doesn’t consume lower-sodium salts faster just because it has less sodium in it.
Think about the extra dollar or two for every lower-sodium salt purchase as a long-term investment for your future health.
By switching to these lower-sodium alternatives, HPB hopes to bring down the average consumption of sodium by at least 15% in the next five years, to around 3,100mg.
It is still more than the recommended sodium intake, but the “war on salt” is fated to be as lengthy as the war on sugar.
Additionally, the HPB is considering grants and incentives to make the switch to low-sodium alternatives more affordable for eateries.
So don’t worry, you won’t hear your favourite hawker stalls increasing the price of the food because they’re salty about having to switch their seasonings.
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