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Guidelines of Dietary Salt for Indians by WHO and National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad

Declaration of salt or sodium is not mandatory. This is despite the recommendation of Codex Alimentarius Commission – a joint intergovernmental body of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) with over 185 member states – for declaring saturated fat and sodium or salt.

WHO (World Health Organisation) Guidelines on Dietary Salt :

Adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium, or 5 grams of salt, per day, according to guidelines issued by WHO. The main source of sodium in our diet is salt, although it can come from sodium glutamate, used as a condiment in many parts of the world. Salt intake of less than 5 grams per day for adults help to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack. The principal benefit of lowering salt intake is a corresponding reduction in high blood pressure. It’s important understand what is your Sodium intake. Below is a table that showcases the per day recommended Dietary allowance
(RDA) for Indians.

Per-Day Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Indians

This is as per the manual of Dietary Guidelines for Indians, 2011, prepared by National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad.

Restrict salt intake to minimum since Increased salt intake may pose health risk and may lead to hypertension and heart disease

Salt is an essential ingredient of food, salt enhances its taste. Throughout history, it has been used as a preservative. While all food substances contain sodium, added salt (sodium 40%, chloride 60%) is the major source of sodium in our diet.

Why Salt intake is important? 

You can maintain water balance and equilibrium through your intake of sodium. It  plays an important role in electro-physiological functions of the cell. Humans have powerful in-built mechanisms for maintaining blood pressure even on minimum sodium intake.

It is from the gastrointestinal tract that sodium is absorbed and a balance is achieved on intakes just above minimum requirements. You require sodium from its losses through urine, faeces and sweat. The sweat loss varies according to climate. Sodium loss through sweat is also the result of High ambient temperatures and vigorous physical exercise. If you work 6 hours of hard physical labor, which may generate 3 litres of sweat, your requirement of sodium chloride may not be more than 6 g/day.

Keep in mind the Salt or Sodium that you get from Natural Sources

Natural diets, in general, provide about 300-400 mg of sodium a day. Cereals, pulses, vegetables, milk, animal and sea foods are primary sources of sodium. Data from India indicate that per capita consumption of salt ranges from less than 5g to 30g/day in different States with almost 40% of population consuming about 10g/day.

Since the taste for salt is acquired, you may restrict its consumption right from an early age. Preserved foods such as pickles, sun dried foods such as papads, sauces/ ketchup and canned foods contribute to higher intakes of salt.

Your salt intake and blood pressure are strongly related.Hypertension is low in people consuming less than 3 g salt per day. Increase in blood pressure with age is also not seen with such intakes. Urinary sodium is reflected in the amount of salt consumed. Lowering of dietary salt decreases the risk of hypertension. But this effect is not uniform as only 20-30% of population is salt sensitive.

Potassium-rich foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits decrease blood pressure. The ratio of sodium to potassium in the diet is important.

What can Excess Salt in your Diet do to you?

  • Besides increasing blood pressure, excessive salt may also affect stomach mucosa and result in atrophic gastritis and gastric cancer.
  • Higher salt in your diet leads to greater calcium being lost and your bone density being reduced.
  • High salt intake has a bad effect on blood vessels, blood pressure, bones and gastrointestinal tract.  

Hence the salt intake should not be more than 6 g per day.

Salt Fortification

Iodine is one of the micronutrients and is added to the cooking salt to supplement the daily allowance of iodine. Read More.

Decoding Food Labels

Couch Potato syndrome is increasingly becoming a reality in India with children and adults becoming addict to the ready to eat snacks like potato chips, biscuit and Indian Namkeens. They curb the hunger pangs but at the same time higher levels of salt, sugar fat, energy  nd protein that even with a single serving or pack of these, your daily requirement of these nutrients and micronutrients is met hence putting you at the risk of hypertension, obesity and other lifestyle diseases.

Consumer VOICE decodes food labels of popular products and brands. We compare energy and protein levels as per the Recommended Dietary Allowances and the check if the brands have the safer limits of sugar and fat as per the Traffic Light labeling System.

List of Products decoded by Consumer VOICE

Check the brands that are safe to eat frequently and which brands you should avoid or eat sparingly

Divya Patwal

VOICE

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