KUALA LUMPUR: Know how much salt is contained in instant noodles, yellow mee and fish balls?
The three items are enjoyed by many Malaysians on a daily basis, but their excessive consumption doesn’t bode well for the heart and blood pressure due to their high sodium chloride – known commonly as table salt – content, says a dietician.
In an interview with FMT, National Heart Institute (IJN) chief dietician Mary Easaw said processed foods, such as instant noodles and fish balls, contained a lot of salt.
“If you look at noodles, you’ll see that mee hoon and kuey teow contain only 6mg of sodium chloride per every 100gm.”
In the case of instant noodles, every 100gm contains 104mg of sodium chloride, while every 100gm of yellow mee contains 177mg of sodium chloride.
“In the case of fish balls, 10 fish balls contain 800mg of sodium chloride. In comparison, 10 small slices of fish only contain 100mg of salt.”
But Easaw said Malaysians had to be aware of more than just how much salt a food item contained.
“People need to know where salt comes from. It’s more than just table salt. Salt is also contained in large quantities in processed meats, preserved foods and sauces such as soy and oyster sauce, as well as tomato and chilli sauce.
“So, when we eat out or cook at home, sauces would be mixed alongside ingredients which already contain salt. It’s more salt than we need.”
Easaw said awareness of how much salt foods contained, and where they came from, was especially important in Asia as Asians had a greater tendency to consume foods which had a higher salt content compared with Westerners.
“This is down to us Asians having a ‘fifth’ taste sense known as umami, which is sensitive to a type of amino acid known more commonly as glutamate,” she said, adding that ‘umami’ was something which was still being studied by scientists.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults consume less than 2,000mg of sodium a day, but according to a 2015 New Straits Times article, Malaysians consume some 2,575mg of salt. This is 25% more than the recommended amount.
Last June, Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam revealed that 6.1 million Malaysians suffered from hypertension and 9.6 million had a high cholesterol level. He said 3.3 million Malaysians were obese.
All three diseases are linked to a high intake of salt.
In 2008, the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) in the UK launched a global movement to improve the health of populations across the world by a gradual reduction in salt intake.
WASH runs Salt Awareness Week from March 20 to 26 every year to highlight the importance of salt reduction.