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Pamper your lover's heart - cut salt intake

Published:Wednesday | February 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM


St Valentine's Day is here again! The focus is on romantic love, and one of its main symbols is the heart. Affection is usually expressed by the giving of red roses, chocolates, and some people spend a special evening together dining in or out.

As you make that special selection from the menu this Valentine's Day, take note of its sodium content. Sodium is a major part of the salt used in meal preparation. Ninety-nine per cent of the times when I eat out, I wonder if the level of salt in the meal is an accident. Most times, in frustration, I would ask the waiter to inform the chef that there is too much salt in the meal.

The soups, entrées and other menu items are 'corned', yet other people in the restaurant seem to be eating in enjoyment, causing me to look like the one who is just griping. Research shows that blacks use more salt in cooking when compared to other groups who actually get most of their salt from processed foods. We pride ourselves on being able to prepare tasty meals, but often use a lot of salt to achieve this end.

Excess salt linked to disease

A high salt intake can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk for stroke, heart attack and heart failure. High salt intake also causes other diseases, such as osteoporosis, stomach cancers and kidney stones.

Some 2009 data from the National Health Fund reveals that of the 15 conditions covered, high blood pressure accounts for the disease with the highest enrolment. Let us pamper our loved ones' hearts by being vigilant about daily salt intake, thus reducing the risk of heart attack and heart failure.

The recommended daily intake for sodium is 1,500mg (less than one teaspoon) and should not be higher than 2300mg. As we eat out or prepare meals at home for our Valentine, pamper his or her heart by avoiding excess salt in the meals.

Dining out with less salt

If meals are cooked to order, ask for less or no added salt.

Some items, such as processed meats, are naturally high in sodium. Avoid them.

Many Chinese foods are also high in sodium.

Many sauces and condiments are also high in salt.

Many coatings and batters are high in salt.

Chips are high in salt.

Make the chef aware of too salty foods; the more complaints, the greater the possibility of improvements.

When cooking at home

Use fresh ingredients of good quality and maturity. This will reduce the need to add too much salt and seasoning for flavour.

Stir-fry or oven-roast vegetables for heightened flavour.

Flavour water for cooking staples and cereals with fresh herbs instead of salt.

Marinate meats and fish in advance with fresh herbs.

Make advance planning and pre-preparations so you can cook and serve meals immediately, when flavours are at their peak.

Serve with love and creativity.

Rosalee M. Brown is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who operates Integrated Nutrition and Health Services; email: yourhealth@