24 February 2019
The high salt content in instant noodles is said to be doing oodles of damage to your health. Photo: Reuters
The high salt content in instant noodles is said to be doing oodles of damage to your health. Photo: Reuters

Our dishes are way too salty

When I was small, my mother never cooked me instant noodles. Once I was at a friend’s house, he showed me how the dish was prepared.

You boil water in a pan, and you put in the noodles. Then you see white foam forming on the surface. My friend said it was soda and I vaguely remembered my mother saying I should avoid instant noodles because there’s too much soda in it.

Now, of course, I know it is not soda but sodium, a major component of salt or sodium chloride.

I recently read a newspaper article about a study made by the Consumer Council. It says that of the 10 most frequently ordered dishes in local restaurants, steamed minced pork with salted egg has the highest sodium content.

An office worker who eats out three meals a day will have a sodium intake that is twice the amount recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

That said, the Centre for Food Safety has advised the food industry to take responsibility and improve meal offerings in order to reduce the consumers’ sodium intake.

How many Hongkongers eat out three meals a day? According to the Report of Population Health Survey 2014/15 conducted by the Surveillance & Epidemiology Branch of the Centre for Health Protection, less than 1 percent.

Does it mean that the fewer times people dine out, the less their salt intake? The answer lies in how much salt Hong Kong people consume every day.

In order to measure a person’s salt intake, urine samples need to be collected and examined. The survey carried out a systematic replicated sampling of urine from respondents.

The result shows that the average daily salt intake of nearly 90 percent of the respondents exceeded the WHO standard by about 1.8 times. Although the salt intakes varied in different age groups, 80 percent of the youngest age bracket still exceeded the standard intake.

In order to meet the WHO standard, not only should the food industry take action but all Hong Kong people should change their eating habits.

High blood pressure increases the risk of death from stroke and heart disease. Consuming more salt increases blood pressure while having less would reduce blood pressure. So a lower salt intake may indirectly lower the chances of having a stroke or heart disease.

However, the WHO has also stated that whether reducing salt intake can directly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases or stroke has not been confirmed.

The WHO standard is 5 grams of salt per day. Achieving this standard can lower the upper number or systolic blood pressure by 3.47 and the lower number or diastolic blood pressure by 1.81.

Act accordingly. If you have high blood pressure, please eat healthier with less salt intake.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 26

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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