Why your lucky numbers might be causing you a health problem

The Good Life Letter 

16th March 2018

  • This is why a Chinese takeaway could be a health lottery
  • Discover why sodium can be so dangerous
  • Find a better way to enjoy a healthy salt
3, 14, 25, 42, 50 & 52.

Not my lottery numbers for the week but the algorithm for one of my guilty pleasures, especially if the number 42 comes with fried rice!

Yes dear readers, I do have a bit of a penchant for Chinese food and the above numbers correlate to my favourite dishes and those of the Collins’ household too.

But to my dismay I see that all Chinese food has been labelled as dangerous due to its high salt content according to a report generated by the food pressure group Action on Salt.

I think we have all eaten a Chinese meal which has left us gasping for water a few hours later, but I had always put that down to overuse of the monosodium glutamate that is commonly used for thickening sauces.

However, it now looks like these effects may also be due to the amount of salt that the researchers found to be almost half of an adults daily recommended intake in one dish alone.

The worst offenders were the ready meals sold in supermarkets as well as some of the pre-prepared sauces, but even restaurant meals were tested with an excess of 3g of salt in them... and we are supposed to only have 5g per day.

I had to admit defeat.

One of my favourite foods was now going to be off the menu unless it was home cooked and therefore I can control what goes into it.

Heavy with gloom I took myself off to my study to contemplate the story.

Salt and life

Salt is a really important part of our diet and we all need to eat some each day, but its overuse as a flavour enhancer by modern commercial food has made it a public enemy.

The effect of high salt diets is almost totally due to the sodium it contains.

The brilliant white, fast flowing table salt that we are all familiar with is yet another over processed form of food that we should really be avoiding.

This type of salt is basically an industrial product made in huge processing plants where it gets heated to an extraordinarily high temperature and treated with caustic soda to remove impurities. Then it gets mixed with anti-caking agents like aluminium hydroxide which helps it flow freely.

What you are left with is a product which has no minerals in it other than sodium and aluminium plus some added iodine. Hardly the complex mineral balance we would have if we used naturally mined salt or evaporated pure ocean water.

If we eat too much sodium we run the risk of developing some pretty nasty health complications such as:

  • High blood pressure: Having too much sodium chloride in your body increases the volume of your blood, leading to high blood pressure. This happens due to the extra intracellular water needed to counteract it. Prolonged high blood pressure may lead to serious cardiovascular problems, kidney failure and many other diseases.

  • Impaired nerve and muscle function: Some sodium is essential for proper muscle function and communication within your nervous system. There’s a balance that is needed though and high salt diets can lead to negative effects like muscle cramps, tension, dizziness and disorientation.

  • Kidney problems: high sodium intake alters the sodium to potassium balance in your blood, which reduces the filtering functions of your kidneys and puts them under stress. Eventually this can lead to renal disease and painful kidney stones.

  • Osteoporosis: Proper calcium absorption and utilization can be affected when you consume too much sodium, resulting in porous bones and an increased risk of fractures. Osteoporosis is affecting more and more elderly people with our modern high sodium chloride diets. By reducing your table salt intake now you can help lower your risk of developing this debilitating disease later in life.

  • Intestinal disorders: Excessive sodium chloride can damage your digestive tract, may provoke acid reflux and is a known risk factor for ulcers and gastrointestinal cancers. Drinking more water can help but ideally cut down on foods that are high in processed salt.

  • Dehydration and fluid retention: You feel thirsty after those sweet & sour chicken balls because the sodium is literally drawing water out of your cells and into your tissues. Fluid retention, especially in the lower legs, is often a direct result of having too much table salt in your meals or snacks.

But surely not all salt is bad for us? Is it?

The salt pay off

As a species we have always revered salt and have used it to seal deals, traded it as a currency and even fought wars over it.

Did you realise that the word salary comes from the fact that people were paid in salt?

So, I refuse to accept that all salt is bad and that we should avoid it entirely; and indeed this turns out to be the case.

For a few months now our household has been using a magnesium salt rather than a sodium one and no-one has noticed a difference in taste or quality of our meals.

You see I completely understand the need to reduce the amount of sodium rich salt in our diet but I also know that this is a cheap way to turn tasteless processed food into something more edible, which justifies my stand against supermarket food.

I can imagine that virtually every Chinese food outlet in the UK will also be using the industrial salt rather than anything more traditional.

Whilst I now need to do some work with the owner and the chef at the Golden Lion to get them to start using something better, I know that my home culinary approach will be based upon a healthy salt rather than the manufactured ones.

It would be dishonest of me to say that I would never have a Chinese takeaway ever again but I guess I now have to make it a much rarer treat than it used to be...

...homemade prawn toast and beef chow mein it is tonight!

Yours, as always




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