The Thai Health Promotion Foundation (THPF) recently stirred up an important conversation on the rising consumption of sodium amongst the Thai populace, accentuating the inherent risks particularly for the younger generation. Assistant Manager, Dr Pairoj Saonuam puts forth what seems to be a foolproof plan – pivoting to healthier dietary alternatives to mitigate this dietary risk factor.
Disturbingly enough, the trend of adhering to a vegetarian diet doesn’t seem to curb the menace of high sodium consumption, as most vegetarian cuisines tend to be rather sweet, fatty and high in salt content. The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines a standard daily intake of sodium not exceeding 2,000 milligrammes – merely 5 grammes per day. Contrarily, retrospective data gathered between 2019-2022 unveils a concerning dietary pattern amongst Thais, where their sodium intake is almost double the designated healthy quantity.
Most alarmingly, it’s the young adults aged between 17 and 24 who bear the brunt of this sodium excess, resulting in a substantial surge in chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Dr Pairoj expressing concern over this trend, warns of risks such as high blood pressure, heightened propensity for kidney and heart diseases, and a range of vascular afflictions.
His preventative measures include leaning more towards vegetable-rich meals, maintaining hygiene during food preparation, fostering bodily balance along with an integrated emphasis on adequate physical activity. These conscious changes, he believes, can render any dietary festival or event, including the impending vegetarian one, both wholesome and healthy.
Professor Dr Surasak Kantachuvesiri, Chairman of the Network to Reduce Sodium Consumption, sheds light on the entrenched habit of excessive salt consumption that Thais has inherited over the years. With the convenience of purchasing frozen and ready-to-eat vegetarian foods widespread during food festivals, this issue becomes even more pertinent. Ticking off these concerns, the ‘Less Salt, Choose Wisely’ Campaign launches in Bangkok, targeting the omnipresent issue of high sodium consumption among young adults.
Scientific studies showcasing a surfeit of 53 frozen food varietals revealed a shocking average sodium content of 890 milligrammes per packet. Ready-to-eat alternatives like noodles, porridge, and instant soups harbor an astounding 1,240 milligrammes of sodium, contributing to an array of health risks including visible facial puffiness, frequent water cravings, swift weight gain, lethargy, and hypertension.
Hence, it becomes imperative to curb sodium intake derived not only from regular food preservatives like sodium chloride but also from hidden sodium sources in various seasonings, food additives, and even bakery items like bread.
The rallying cry from the Less Salt, Choose Wisely campaign therefore revolves around the ‘4 choose 4 avoid’ mantra; the four preferable dietary choices being
- inclusion of diverse fresh vegetables
- minimal addition of salt and absolutely no MSG
- refraining from adding extra seasoning
- opting for frozen foods bearing health nutrition labels
The must-avoid list comprises of
- consumption of soup
- processed and prefab foods
- pickled or fermented foods,
- crispy food varieties
Partake in the cause by testing your salt addiction level and receiving customized advice on adapting healthier salt habits by visiting https://sodiumquiz.lowsaltthai.com. Stay informed about more such initiatives by following The Thaiger’s updates on their Facebook page.