10 Tips To Reduce Salt In Eastern Asian Diets
Are you at risk for hypertension?
By Mimi Huang, BSc.
Reviewed by Amy Yiu, B.Sc., RD
What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?
Hypertension refers to blood pressure above normal levels. For most people, the healthy range is 120/80. Higher readings represent greater strain on blood arteries as blood is pumped through. Constant strain can cause damage to arteries, thus increasing the risk for stroke and heart disease. For people with diabetes, hypertension increases the risk for stroke and heart disease by four-fold.
What is the guideline/recommendation?
Sodium plays important roles in the body, so 1500 mg sodium (3 mg salt) is needed per day for healthy adults. People with hypertension should eat less than 2000 mg (4 mg salt) per day.
Most Canadians consume 3400 mg of sodium per day, so decreasing sodium intake is recommended for healthy people as well as people with hypertension and/or diabetes.
These are other contributing factors and recommendations:
Sodium content in Eastern Asian diets
- Cooking Sauces (e.g., soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili sauce, black bean sauce, fish sauce)
- Note: low sodium (e.g., low sodium soy sauce) refers to the lower sodium version of the regular product, so the product may still contain lots of sodium. Eat less of the foods that contain more than 15% daily value sodium per serving.
- Ultra-processed foods (e.g., chips and crackers, breads, instant noodles, preserved vegetables or meats, canned soups)
- Salty prepared foods (e.g., BBQ pork, marinated tofu, fermented foods)
- Foods with “hidden” salt (e.g., breads, noodles)
- Eating out (e.g., restaurants, fast food, parties, and sometimes relatives’ homes!)
Note: there is no difference between table salt, sea salt, kosher salt, and pink/Himalayan salt in terms of sodium content and impact on health.
Strategies to reduce salt in your diet
The body retains most of the sodium from foods. The most effective way to reduce the body’s sodium levels is by eating less salt.
- Buy fresh produce from farmers’ markets if available or grocery stores. Fresh, local produce is more delicious, less bitter, and more nutritious, so no extra salt is needed to add flavour.
- Buy frozen or canned foods that are out of season (e.g., peas, corn, carrots, tomatoes). Frozen and canned foods are picked at peak ripeness, so they are often healthier and more delicious than imported produce.
- Use food labels to choose options lower in sodium. Less than 5% is a little, while more than 15% is a lot.
- Buy fewer snacks. Eat a few hours before grocery shopping to avoid impulse shopping. Start by buying half of what you usually buy or only your favourite snacks. Alternatively, stop buying snacks so you can slowly finish what is already at home.
- Use less sauce or salt when cooking. If you regularly eat salty foods, the sodium receptors on your taste buds likely become less sensitive to sodium. Allow your taste bud receptors to reset by reducing or cutting salt from your cooking for 10 days.
- Cook noodles without salt
- Only add salt at the end of cooking if needed.
- Prepare soups without salt.
- Add flavour using herbs and spices, garlic, onion, or lemon/lime.
- Choose less processed versions of foods you enjoy. Experiment with recipes that do not require lots of salt to be satisfying.
- Firm tofu for soups and stir fries.
- Baby potatoes for roasting or stir frying.
- Raw chicken breast for air frying or baking.
- Try different herbal soup recipes.
- When eating out, choose less salty options and balance with no-sodium foods.
- Steamed yu choy with congee instead of siu mai.
- Cup of tea or soy milk with buns instead of salty soups.
- Salad with a burger instead of fries.
- Incorporate more vegetables and fruits into your diet. Instead of snacking on chips or sweets, prepare your favourite vegetables and fruits. Do not skip meals and eat meals at the same times every day to avoid snacking in between meals.
- Drink more water. Keep water nearby so you can easily drink water whenever you feel thirsty.
- Be open to having salty foods sometimes. You can only control so much in life, so enjoy salty foods sometimes. After all, the goal is to eat less salt overall not cut it out completely.
Prevention is the best strategy to protect yourself from disease and allow you to live a long and satisfying life.
- Eat a balanced diet with variety and check nutrition fact labels. Avoid food that contains more than 15% daily value sodium per serving.
- Achieve a healthier weight (or personal best weight).
- Self-monitor your blood pressure and sodium intake regularly, especially if you have hypertension.
- Lead a healthy lifestyle that minimizes stress and prioritizes healthy eating, regular exercise, and good sleep.
Looking for more support with healthy eating for Hypertension prevention?
Don’t go through this journey alone, reach out to one of our Dietitians for support to have all the keys to success!
Find the right Hypertension Dietitian for you to help prevent chronic illness by contacting us today!
Also, subscribe to our weekly newsletter to never miss out on any tips, advice, and recipes!