Rethinking salt consumption in Pakistan | By M Omar Iftikhar


Rethinking salt consumption in Pakistan

SALT has always been an important condiment since the beginning of time.Not only does it add flavour and taste to food but it also contributes to maintaining balance in the human body.

But we know that anything consumed in excess is almost always bad for the body. The same goes for sodium.

Too much sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes. It is for this reason that the U.S.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that the average human adult should consume less than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is equal to about a teaspoon of salt.

South Asia is known the world over for its unique cuisine and like most South Asian nations; Pakistani food is heavily laden with salt and spices.

This high intake of salt not only results in the body retaining water but also gives the feeling of being bloated.

Further, high sodium consumption also results in high blood pressure long-term, which is the main risk factor for stroke and various cardiovascular disorders and heart diseases.

Consuming too much salt can also bring on swelling in different parts of the body caused by excessive fluids in the body’s tissues which are known as edema.

It is believed to be a sign of the fact that you are consuming too much salt. Excess salt in the body also leaves one feeling thirsty most of the time.

This happens because foods with high sodium content cause an imbalance in your body’s fluids, and only high-water consumption makes up for this.

Excessive intake of salt results in sweating and further leads to dehydration. Hence to keep the body calm and control water loss, one should avoid excessive salt intake, especially during hot summers in Pakistan.

It is thus important to introduce long-term measures to lower salt intake nationwide. In the given scenario, the Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), commonly referred to as the Chinese salt, may rightly serve the purpose.

Containing a meagre amount of sodium, MSG, by all means, and measures are the best alternative that can replace the traditional table salt in all its uses.

Primarily a sodium salt of glutamic acid, MSG is similar to traditional white salt in its appearance and is mostly used as a seasoning or as a flavouring agent to impart umami – a unique, savoury taste – adding to a wide range of foods and dishes.

It contains 12 percent sodium while table salt contains 39 percent of sodium by weight. When compared with table salt, MSG contains about one-third of the sodium and is thus considered the best alternative to salt.

Though there has been fear-mongering that MSG is not good for health, the FDA considers MSG safe for regular consumption.

Even international organizations like WHO and FAO have declared it fit for consumption. You will be surprised to know that MSG is already found in all types of processed and packaged foods, such as packet noodles, potato chips, cookies, vegetables, and canned soups, apart from being present naturally in foods such as tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese among other foods.

More than a replacement for salt in the diet, using MSG has its unique health benefits too, because MSG, unlike table salt, is not used in a high quantity and is added to food in quite smaller amounts.

Since salt is the most common food additive used in food preparation, making a paradigm shift to MSG could be the best way to protect our health in the long run in Pakistan.

— The writer is contributing columnist, based in Karachi.


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