Public warned to watch for ‘hidden’ salt in food

By Chiu Yi-chun and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Nov 10, 2012 - Page 3

With the onset of cold weather, nutrition experts are warning people to watch their sodium intake when eating hotpots and other traditional Taiwanese winter meals.

The warning came after the American Heart Association publicized the “Salty Six” this week — a list of the six most common foods in the US that have high sodium levels and which could lead to an increased risk of a stroke or heart disease. The six food items are: breads, cold cut and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup and sandwiches.

Hsu Hui-yu (許惠玉), head of the food nutrition section at the John Tung Foundation said that many hotpot items do not taste too salty, but actually have a high sodium content.

When eating such meals people tend to use soy sauce, sate paste or barbeque sauce as dips, thus pushing up sodium levels, she said.

Hsu said that when eating bread many people accompany it with items that are flavored with salt, oil or sugar.

She recommended easing up on sweet snacks like chocolate and biscuits because — despite the sweet or sour taste — they are actually loaded with salt.

She reminded the public that the daily requirement per person is six grams of salt — which amounts to 2,000 milligrams of sodium.

For people with high blood pressure, she advised using low-sodium salt. However, low-sodium salt tends to have a higher potassium content which would not be suitable for those suffering from diabetes or kidney disease.

In wintertime, many Taiwanese enjoy eating hot soup and fire pots, or fried snacks as a late-night meal, which Hsu said are often high in sodium and are then sprinkled with salt to enhance the flavor. To enjoy good food is fine, but she warned the public to avoid too much salt.