Today, Salt Awareness Week 2021 ends. The observance is intended to promote wider knowledge of why too much salt can be harmful to your health as the effects are far-reaching.
In India, salt awareness is important given how much salt Indians consume. In 2019, Down to Earth reported that Indians consume almost ten grams of salt on a daily basis which is more than twice what the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends.
“Our findings show that salt intake continues to be high and thus there is an urgent need for national salt reduction strategies that are well suited to settings and effective salt reduction policies in achieving the United Nations global targets of a thirty percent reduction in mean population salt intake by 2025,” stated Sudhir Raj Thout, Research Fellow at the George Institute, in 2019.
High salt intake is one factor behind India’s sizeable burden of hypertension – a condition which accounted for 17.5 percent of all deaths in India in 2016. The WHO estimates that reduced salt intake could avert 2.5 million deaths globally. As well as reducing rates of hypertension, lower consumption of salt “helps to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack” according to the WHO. It’s also good for the economy, as “reducing salt intake has been identified as one of the most cost-effective measures countries can take to improve population health outcomes. Key salt reduction measures will generate an extra year of healthy life for a cost that falls below the average annual income or gross domestic product per person.”
As the World Action on Salt, Sugar and Health notes, Salt Awareness Week in 2021 comes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and, consequently, our lives are different. “Restrictions put in place to help slow the spread of the virus have meant that rather than socialising and eating in restaurants, cafes and outdoor markets, we are now spending more time at home,” they note. “With this increased time at home has come an increase in home cooking and an opportunity to hone our favourite recipes or even get creative in the kitchen with new recipes and flavours.”
As such, they recommend a number of measures to improve home cooking without depending on salt for flavour. They recommend “replacing salt with chilli, citrus, fresh herbs, garlic, black pepper and spices; cutting back on sauces such as soy sauce, ketchup and salad dressings which can contain lots of hidden salt; [and] using lower salt-stocks, or making your own low-salt stock.”
Given our global experience of a lethal virus with potentially lasting effects, it may seem trivial to talk about salt but it is crucial to do so. The fact that Indians are eating too much salt is exacerbating our noncommunicable disease crisis – and it is well-documented that a variety of noncommunicable diseases heighten the risk of severe illness should you contract COVID-19. As such, with Salt Awareness Week now coming to an end, it is important that salt awareness be sustained for the good of your health.