We Indians truly cherish our spices and our food, but more often than not, we tend to consume excessive amounts of salt, surpassing the recommended levels. According to a recent study, the average Indian consumes 8 grams of salt daily, even though the maximum recommended level is 5 grams per day.
The study unveiled that all adults, regardless of their sociodemographic backgrounds, had higher salt intake than the recommended levels. Notably, men had a higher daily salt intake at 8.9 grams, compared to women at 7.9 grams per day.
Similarly, specific groups, such as those who were employed (8.6g), current tobacco users (8.3g), obese individuals (9.2g), and those with elevated blood pressure (8.5g), were found to have a higher salt intake than their counterparts who were unemployed, non-tobacco users, non-obese, and individuals with normal blood pressure.
If you believe that 3 grams are a negligible amount and harmless, consider this context: Dr Prashant Mathur, the director of ICMR-National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research and the leader of the Nature Portfolio study, explained to Times of India that a global decrease in daily dietary sodium intake by at least 1.2 grams could lead to a 50% reduction in the number of people needing anti-hypertensive treatment.
Dr Darshini Bali, a dietitian from Noida, explains to DailyO that to understand this phenomenon, we need to consider our background. She says, "Our country has an agricultural history, so whenever there was a lot of water loss due to high manual labor, salt intake increased. Consequently, there was an increase in cravings for salt, which is again passed down through our genetics."
Even today, our food habits continue to include a significant amount of salt intake. For instance, we consume salted pickles or chutney with our meals, further increasing our salt levels.
The study also pointed out that salt is the root cause of many fatal diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, gastric cancer, and hypertension. Let's take a look at some numbers to understand it better:
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a daily salt intake of 5 grams, which is more than adequate.
Dr Darshini concurs with the study, stating that excessive salt can lead to the aforementioned diseases, but an excessive salt intake can also result in weight gain.
Dr Darshini and Dr. Namita Nadar, dietitians from Noida, provide us with several ways to reduce our salt intake:
If you're accustomed to a high-salt diet, reduce your intake gradually. Your taste buds will adjust over time, and you'll become more accustomed to lower-salt flavors.