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Consumers encouraged to look for hidden salt in foods

Monday, March 12, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — More persons are now aware of the negative consequences of a diet consisting of high levels of salt and have taken steps to reduce the amount they add to their daily meals during cooking, and at the table.

As the country observes March 12 to 16 as Salt Awareness Week, the Heart Foundation of Jamaica is appealing to persons to watch out for hidden salt.

In an interview with JIS News, Executive Director of the Foundation, Deborah Chen, indicated that most of the salt we consume (75 per cent) is contained in processed foods.

“We have to pay close attention to labels when purchasing food and take steps to lower the amount of salt we add to our food. We should also seek to add flavour to our meals by increasing the use of natural herbs and spices instead of adding more salt,” she suggested.

Hidden salt in processed food is dangerous, especially when the product does not taste particularly salty and the consumer is lured into a false sense of comfort in consuming a significant amount of the harmful food items.

A daily diet consisting of more than five grams of salt contributes significantly to the likelihood of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Alafia Samuels, pointed out that cases of high blood pressure have been on the rise in Jamaica, and the effects are also impacting children.

“Examining the findings of islandwide test data from 2017, almost 18,000 girls and 15,000 boys, 10 to 19 years old had elevated blood pressure linked to obesity,” stated Professor Samuels.

In the meantime, Chen said the Foundation recognises that high blood pressure is directly related to salt consumption and “has sought to help Jamaicans jump-start the process by knowing their numbers”.

As their key activity in observance of Salt Awareness week, the Foundation is offering free blood pressure and limited blood sugar screenings at its Beechwood Avenue location throughout the week (March 12 to 16).

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