Adding salt to a dish is so fundamental to us in cooking but given the higher rates of cancer associated with salt, we need to take a step back and re-think the usage of salt.
Salt has increasingly been identified as a possible cause of stomach cancers, more so in communities that rely on salt as a preservative and a food additive.
According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, a higher intake of salt can lead to stomach cancers since too much salt damages the lining of the stomach.
Stomach cancer is known to be among the top three deadliest cancers and the fifth most common cancer globally. Stomach cancer comes with very few symptoms but experts believe that with lifestyle and diet changes, it can be prevented easily.
World Cancer Research Fund International states that cured meat, fish and vegetables with higher degree of salt can cause stomach cancers, citing evidence from countries such as Japan and Korea where salting of food is often used.
Cutting down on the salt consumption over time can result in reduction of stomach cancer rates, according to the World Cancer Research Fund.
The World Health Organization recommends an intake of 05g (01 teaspoon) of salt per day. However, with the increasing usage of processed foods, there are more people consuming foods that contain a higher amount of salt.
In Sri Lanka, where salt intake is double the recommended average daily consumption rate of 05g (01 teaspoon), the health sector has actively encouraged people to reduce their daily salt intake.
Sri Lanka maintains a National Salt Reduction Strategy that targets a reduction of 30% of the salt intake by 2025. The initiatives call upon the community to make significant changes and has undertaken an awareness campaign as well.
The intake of salt is also based on taste preferences. If you can choose to reduce your intake of salt over a time period, your taste buds would get used to the low salt levels, enabling you to make meaningful dietary changes.
The best outcome would be for us to reduce salt intake in our daily diet. It can easily be done with gradual but important changes, some of which are given below.
- Choose other seasoning options such as spices, garlic and lime – they contain phytonutrients that actually fight cancers.
- Use fresh ingredients for meals, minimizing the use of salt as a preservative.
- Don’t add salt to rice when it is being cooked. The salt of the other dishes can complement the rice.
- Make your own salad dressings and seasons without using the readymade mixes which often contain a lot of salt.
- Try to avoid products that contain 200mg of salt per serving.
- Be mindful of salt levels when eating out.
- Always add less salt to your cooking – if not adequate, you can add a little more later.
- Try to reduce the amount of salt you use in cooking over time.