Celiachia – English Version: the salt

Già in passato avevo fatto dei tentativi per scrivere alcuni post in inglese….. Ora ripartiamo con convinzione!

Now we will talk about the salt and the sodium, two very important minerals for our health.

Salt – sodium chloride is the technical name- is an ingredient which has been known since the beginning of mankind. It used to preserve meat, fish and vegetables and to improve the taste of food. NaCl is the chemical formula: Na=sodium and Cl=chlorine, two minerals of crucial importance for our good health if used correctly. It’s very important to consume 6g of salt a day.

The World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) held its 2nd annual World Salt Awareness Week, from 2 to 8 February 2009 and focused on salt eaten outside the home. In Italy the Società Italiana di Nutrizione Umana (SINU) sponsored the same event and prepared some materials (i.e. leaflets, posters and brochures).

Now we will try to clarify somethings about salt. First of all… salt or sodium? Sodium is the most important part of salt but the two terms aren’t synonymous. The body needs a certain amount of sodium to function properly. Typically 0.4g of sodium is the concentration in 1g of salt.

Why is too much salt bad for you?
Many scientists, although not all, believe that when salt levels are too high there are:
– hypertension
– a greater risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
– a close relation with stomach cancer and H.Pylori
– a major cause of kidney stones
– a loss of hip bone density.
Moreover, epidemiological evidence suggests that the severity of asthma may be related to salt intake.

Which are the most important sources of salt?
Some foods that we consume every day (vegetables, meat, ham, water…) have a good concentration of salt and they are not necessarily high in salt. Surprisingly, three quarters of the salt we eat is hidden in processed foods: snacks, foods prepared in restaurants, takeaways, fast foods and canteen food. Only a quarter comes from salt added either at the table or during cooking.

Some years ago (2007, 2008) an analysis showed that children in many countries have a very high salt intake because a lot of babyfood and/or children’s food have higher salt concentrations.
For the past 10 years manufacturers have been increasing the amount of salt in food up from 540 mg/100g to 1050mg/100g. At the same time there has been an increase in consumption of these type of food.

It’s important to recive a correct information, especially for celiac persons, who consume products daily which are processed by multi-national food companies i.e. pasta, bread, crackers, snacks, pizza, breakfast cereals etc.

What you should know about salt and sodium?
1. The target levels of salt intake for babies, children (according to the age), adults and the elderly.
The current recommendations for children depends on their age. Babies need only a very small amount of salt – less than 1g/day up to 12 months, wheareas at 11 years and over the average intake is 6g salt/day (2.4g sodium). Adults and the elderly should consume 6g salt/day. However for Italians the average intake of salt is between 9g and 12g of salt/day.

2. How can I understand the amount of salt from the nutrional information on food labels?
Very few people know how to read the nutritional information on the labels, correctly. It’s very important to check labels to find out which foods are high in salt. You can find out the quantity of salt or sodium. For salt you must divide by 2.5 (Sodium = salt : 2.5) so you calculate the sodium concentration.

… and then how to interpret the values? As a general rule:
Foods high in salt have more than 1.5g salt/100g (or 0.6g sodium / 100g).
Foods low in salt have less than 0.3g salt / 100g (or 0.1g sodium / 100g).

Now…… Let’s consider some gluten-free products…… straightaway you can note that the salt is usually listed on some foods but not all, while the sodium is shown in the nutritional information on food labels. Only a few food manufactures indicate the correct values.

Some years ago I analysed some breakfast cereals, today we will try to observe: rusks.

I examined six Companies: Giusto, Bi-Aglut, Pandea, La Finestra sul Cielo, dr Schar e DS.
Only four of then listed salt on their labels. Giusto, Bi-Aglut e Pandea are high in salt because the values are 0.8g – 0.708g and 0.6g per 100g, respectively.
La Finestra sul Cielo, a biological of food company, is low in salt because the value is 0.124g/100g.

Now we look at another example: crackers.
This time I analysed nine Companies but Pandea, Pauly, DS e dr Schar do not list sodium or salt.
Glutafin, Cereal, Bi-Aglut, Galbusera and Giusto are high in salt: 1.4g/100g Glutafin – 0.8g/100g Cereal – 0.7g/100g Bi-Aglut and Galbusera – 0.36g/100g Giusto.
It is surprising how there is no cracker with a low concentration of salt, i.e 0.3g salt/100g

The last thing to consider is “what should we do?”

First of all, it’s necessary to eat more fresh foods (they contain potassium which balances the effect of salt on the organism). If you must eat these products you must those with a reduced salt content. For example when you’re buying gluten-free bread, compare the amount of salt in different types and choose the product with the lowest salt levels.

Home cooking? That’s easy……
To improve the flavour of foods, try not to add salt automatically while you’re cooking or about to eat, but try using some herbs (parsley, basil, rosemary, sage, bay leaves, star anise, capers, marjoram, fresh mint, oregano, thyme, chili pepper) or spices (aniseed, cinammon, cloves, coriander, wild fennel, juniper berries, nutmeg, saffron, ginger); or lemon or vinegar and balsamic vinegar (3-4 drops).

Limit the salt you use in cooking to 2 pinches/day when preparing sauces, meat, fish or vegetables. When cooking pasta or rice 1 dessertspoonful/5litres of water.

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