Saturday, 22 September 2018

Na - Sodium: The Silent Killer

A Consumer Report

Information sources: Israel MOH website, Wikipedia, WebMD

salt

Photo credit: Uni of Wisconsin

You might have missed the Israel Channel 10 Television broadcast  'Holim Al Melach' - on 23rd August, 2016, wherein they investigated the topic of Sodium (Hebrew: Nitran - נתרן) in our diets in Israel.

Before we report on the program, here is some background information

The chemical element Sodium - Na - is an essential element for all animals and some plants.  It is used in the manufacture of glass, paper, soap, and textiles.The most important sodium compounds are table salt (NaCl - sodium chloride), soda ash, baking soda, caustic soda, sodium nitrate, di- and tri-sodium phosphates, sodium thiosulfate, and borax.

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Human Requirements

In humans, sodium is an essential mineral that regulates blood volume, blood pressure, osmotic equilibrium and pH

The minimum physiological requirement for sodium is 500 milligrams per day. Sodium chloride is the principal source of sodium in the diet, and is used as a seasoning and as a preservative.  In the western world most sodium chloride comes from processed foodsSodium also occurs naturally in some foods. 

The Israel Ministry of Health (MOH) recommends a sodium intake for adults of 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. The recommended maximum intake is 2,000-2,400 mg per day, the amount of which is equivalent to approximately 5-6 grams of salt. This value was set as a target for sodium intake in the population by the World Health Organization.

For children, the MOH's recommendations are even lower:
  • For ages 1-3: The maximum amount is 1.5 grams a day (600 mg sodium);
  • For ages 4-8: 1.9 grams a day (760 mg sodium);
  • For ages 9-13: 2.2 grams a day (880 mg sodium)

In fact, according to the program the actual average daily sodium intake in Israel is:

  • 9g a day for adults (more than 1 tsp)
  • 12g a day for children

Excessive sodium intake contributes to high blood-pressure, dizziness, strokes, heart-attacks and other medical issues.  Extra sodium can also make your body retain water.

Food Labeling

It's all in the small print! Do you read the nutritional information on the package label all the time?  Even if you do, do you know what the RDA (recommended daily allowances) for every product?  Are you effectively able to apply this knowledge when purchasing and preparing food for your family?

Our kids love to snack and some of their favorites are pretzels (beigela), Bissli, Tapuchips and Bamba.   According to the MOH website, these are the sodium levels of these 4 items

Product Range of sodium (mg) in 100gr product Sodium (mg) in 100 gram products as indicated on package label Average fat percentage Average number of calories per 100 grams
​Pretzels ​770-1200 ​780 ​6 ​400
​Bissli ​650-710 ​650 ​25 ​500
Tapuchips​ ​470-600 ​519 ​34 ​540
​Bamba ​390-450 ​390 ​34 ​534

 

In the program they also mentioned that there is:

  • 1,500mg of sodium (which is equivalent to 1 heaped teaspoon of salt) in  100 grams of one of our favorite foods - boerekas
  • 620mg of sodium in 100g of 5% fat yellow cheese
  • 580mg of sodium in 100g of pizza
  • 500mg of sodium in 100g of kebab

We did a spot check of our store cupboards and this is what we found:

  • 9mg of sodium in 100g of tehini paste
  • 415mg of sodium in 100g of ready made hummous
  • 461mg of sodium in 100g of mayonnaise
  • 720mg of sodium in 100g of ketchup
  • 1,303mg of sodium in 100g of soya sauce
  • and a whopping 12,785mg of sodium in 100g of chicken flavored stock powder which is equivalent to 1,405 per teaspoon

In the program, it was mentioned that the MOH is trying to reduce the amount of sodium in processed foods and they have asked Israeli food manufacturers to commit to reducing the quantities of sodium in their products.  Budget and political issues are cited as being the reasons for this project not being able to move forward.

We need some salt in our diet but on the other hand low-salt diets can also be dangerous to our health.  If you think you are getting more than 1tsp of salt per day in your diet here are some alternatives you might want to consider.

Alternatives to salt

Instead of salt in food preparation,  Foodies recommend using

  • garlic powder (not garlic salt)
  • onion powder (not onion salt)
  • white or black pepper
  • curry or smoked paprika
  • and salt free herb blends

Other ways to cut down on your sodium intake

  • Eat more fresh foods. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium.
  • Opt for low-sodium products. If it's labeled "low sodium" - it's a better option. Buy plain whole-grain rice and pasta instead of the instant ones that have loads of sodium.
  • Remove salt from recipes whenever possible.  If you can't, then at least cut down the quantity.
  • Limit use of sodium-laden condiments.

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