3 reasons why NOT to reduce salt in our older loved ones
Updated: Sep 14, 2021
The experts are always telling us to reduce salt especially for our older loved ones. And it essentially it makes absolute sense. Eating and adding a lot salt puts us at risk of disease and morbidity and salt can exacerbate existing chronic disease and illness. Part of the spotlight on salt is that it is added to so many things, you only have to turn over a packet to see added sodium and because it’s normally in the 100 to 1000 units and you automatically gasp with fear, because it sounds big!
As a measure, it’s recommended we consume 2300mg or 1 teaspoon (5g). A dash of salt on your morning egg is about 150mg. An average 50g serving of ham on your bread roll is 500mg of added salt. The average packaged frozen dinner has anywhere from 600mg to 800mg of added salt. Anything with a long shelf life, will generally have a lot of added salt. Anything that is fresh and perishes easily like fruit and vegetables will have very little sodium.
So when we hear that salt has the potential to make us very sick, we have a tendency to dramatically reduce salt by not adding it to food anymore or cutting it out completely. But for our older loved ones, I’m suggesting that reducing or avoiding salt is probably not the right thing to do. That maybe cutting or dramatically reducing salt is a bigger problem for our older loved ones. Maybe we just need to check in how much salt we are eating when we’re adding or eating packaged food, maybe we assess salt based on the risk of or current illness or disease. And maybe there is actually no problem with the amount of salt being added or consumed by your older loved one.
I want to make this valuable point to help explain, for our older loved ones, their relationship with food gradually deteriorates as they age. Food tastes different, it becomes harder to chew, it can become difficult to prepare and cook food, intolerances and allergies can develop, food choice and availability becomes scarce due to mobility and convenience, and the list goes on. And so, it’s so vitally important that food is still appealing and palatable for our older loved ones, and here are the reasons why.
The three most important reasons why salt should not be reduced or avoided and simply, why it still needs to be included in an older persons meal, is taste, quality of life and immunity.
If a meal tastes good, it will be eaten. If that meal is eaten, it will bring happiness and health. And if this person is happy and healthy they have more chance of being mobile, being social, falling over less, having higher immunity to infection and less hospital visits.
So I absolutely whole heartedly agree, salt can be a nasty player and one to watch, especially salt that hides in packaged foods. But if added salt is monitored and the risk of and current illness and disease are taken into consideration, continuing adding salt to meals will maintain or increase taste, increasing the amount of nutrients your older loved one eats, and will ensure they stay healthy, happy and free from sickness.
Some tasty, salty alternatives that can be added to food to still maintain that umami taste are nutritional yeast flakes and wakame flakes. 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes has 5 times less sodium than a dash of salt, boasts a bunch of vitamins and minerals and is a pretty non offensive alternative. 2 tablespoons of Wakame is about half that of a dash of salt, but is actually seaweed, so it might take some getting used to.
Homemade stock or organic stocks from brands like NutraOrganics are a good alternative to packaged gravy, stock cubes and canned soups. Access might be difficult for your older loved one, so this will involve some help from you, but so worth it. Good luck.
This is hugely universal advice, it doesn’t take into consideration individual cases. Consult a health professional if you have any concerns. I’m available for one on one consultations if you want to talk more about sodium or discuss a specific nutrition plan for yourself or your older loved one. Hit my bookings below and get in touch.