Adequate sodium intake is necessary for proper bodily function, however, excessive salt consumption can have negative health consequences. Increased intake of sodium in diets is linked to a higher probability of developing hypertension, which is linked to cardiovascular illnesses and stroke.
Hayley Cimring, a nutrition and team leader from the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, says processed foods, takeaways, and pre-packaged meals are typically high in added sugars, salt, and saturated fats, she says. This makes them bad for the heart, brain and overall health.
Although it might be difficult owing to a lack of information and affordability, Thembisile Delron Maxinzi of Mbekweni in Paarl believes that controlling what you consume is crucial.
Maxinzi’s passion to be isigantsontso (the fit one) doesn’t stop with exercising, though. He has given some thought to limiting his intake of unhealthy foods and drinks. To him, breakfast is the most vital meal of the day. He has a hard time finding healthy options for takeout because of how frequently he has to travel due to his work conditions.
“The food is either too spicy or too fatty,” he says.
According to Maxinzi, his day always begins with a nutritious smoothie. “Usually, I combine oats, an egg, a banana, and some spinach with milk in a blender.”
He keeps his physique in shape, especially his ‘six-pack.’
Salt, in his opinion, is better used in boiling food than in grilled or fried meals. He elaborates that some people do really go to the gym, but they end up gaining muscle and finding it difficult to lose weight, and others even become ill as a result of what they put in their mouths.
Cheating versus leading a healthy lifestyle!
Oluchi Odumuko, a model and fitness enthusiast from Khayelitsha in Cape Town, says eating meals that are spicy and high in salt may be very unhealthy. She does, however, keep an eye on what she eats and may occasionally simply go with the flow.
“I’m young and healthy, I don’t bother monitoring how much salt I eat, but I do occasionally feel guilty because I know what the consequences are because having high blood pressure is no joke.”
Odumuko adds it is painful to have a close family member diagnosed with high blood pressure and witness directly the harm that it causes to the body.
“I try to stay away from deep-fried meals, sweets, and chocolate since for some reason they give me migraines, but that doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally have fried chicken and chips or a slab of chocolate.”
“I do make an effort to lead a healthier lifestyle, but water and gym are my priorities.”
Eat what your body needs!
Cimring emphasises that the consumption of added sugars can contribute to obesity and diabetes. Additionally, excessive intake of salt may increase the risk of high blood pressure, while saturated fats can lead to obesity and high cholesterol.
Being obese, having diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can elevate the chances of developing heart disease and strokes.
“This equates to one teaspoon and refers to all the food we eat, i.e., the salt we add into our foods as well as salt that is already present in foods we purchase, especially processed foods.”
South Africans, however, far exceed this recommendation and consume, on average, roughly between 6 and 11 grams of salt per day, according to Cimring.
How to watch your salt intake
It is important to note that there is no recommended method for sprinkling salt onto our meals, says Cimring.
“We advise the public to limit adding salt on the food and to rather make use of fresh ingredients such as lemon, herbs and spices to add flavour to food.”
She demonstrates that in South Africa more than one in three adults live with high blood pressure and it is responsible for one in every two strokes and two in every five heart attacks. High blood pressure is known as a “silent killer” because there are rarely any symptoms or visible signs to warn that blood pressure is high. That is why more than 50% of people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition.
What are the top five meals in Mzansi that are known to contain too much salt?
- Double burger with 2 patties contains 3453mg of salt.
- 1 piece of battered fried fish contains 2460mg of salt.
- 8 wings (fried chicken) contain 2141mg of salt.
- Meaty Pizza contains 2004mg of salt.
- Large chips contain 1570mg of salt.
According to Cimring, a small handful of biltong should be limited as it contains 722mg of salt. A recommended healthy snack option would be a serving size of unsalted nuts. Nuts are a good source of healthy fats, but it’s important to remember that all fats should be consumed in moderation.
“Drinking water does not dilute the salt content and is a myth,” she cautions
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