Last Saturday, Food Lovers magazine had invited me to speak on Nutrition & Health as a part of their Food Fiesta celebration at 1 MG Mall. One of the questions raised by the audience was “Is salt necessary for the body? What if we don’t take salt at all?”
Salt (rather, sodium) is needed for the body. Sodium is required to maintain the fluid balance and to transmit nerve impulses. Salt being the best source of dietary sodium, it is required in small amounts on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the average daily intake of salt by an Indian far exceeds the limit set by nutrition experts. Last year, WHO issued guidelines for sodium intake even for children. This indicates that most people are eating more salt than necessary, and by reducing the intake of salt we can reduce the risk of cardiac related health problems.
Sodium is not only added to cooked foods in the form of salt at home but is also present in processed foods. Here are a few tips to cut back on sodium / salt intake –
Many packaged foods carry ‘no trans fats’ on their label. This indicates that trans fats are not good for us.
Trans fats (trans fatty acids is the real term) are formed when vegetable oils undergo hydrogenation to make them solid at room temperature. The most common examples of trans fats is vanaspati and margarine. This type of fat is used in baking (biscuits, cookies, cakes, etc), in ready-to-eat foods (chiwdas, mixtures, bhujias, namkeens, chips, etc), and sometimes even in homes and restaurants for deep frying. The reason for its widespread use is because vanaspati is cheaper than pure ghee or butter, and it’s melting point is higher than some oils. Secondly, vanaspati and margarine do not contain cholesterol because they are made from vegetable oils. So far so good.
But the downside of using hydrogenated fats is that it’s the worst type of fat for health. Trans fats not only increase the ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body, they also decrease the ‘good’ cholesterol. Heart disease risk increases much more from trans fats than when you consume saturated fat from butter!
So it’s best to stay away from all those ready-made munchies and also to read labels carefully when you buy packaged foods. While eating out do not hesitate to ask the cook what type of fat he uses for cooking.