High blood pressure is a common problem in modern societies. In Korea, more than one fourth of adults aged 30 and over have high blood pressure. People may not pay much attention because there aren't serious symptoms in the beginning, but it silently causes the death of many people.
Doctors say that blood pressure is related to lifestyle choices and issues, such as diet, exercise, smoking, stress and drinking. There is research showing that diet is especially closely related with the blood pressure. Eating food high in calories or salty food constitutes a bad diet that results in high blood pressure. Koreans, however, are taking in more than double the recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO), which advises 2,000 milligrams of sodium, or five grams of salt daily, because many Korean dishes are salty.
Sodium is essential to life. It balances the body and sends stimulus to cells so that neurons and muscles react. However, as many food ingredients already contain sodium, it isn't usually necessary to add additional salt while cooking. Sodium not only causes high blood pressure, it can also cause heart disease, strokes, stomach cancer and osteoporosis. Hence, we should reduce our sodium intake to maintain or recover our health even though our blood pressure might be normal.
However, cutting salt from our diet is not that simple. It is difficult to make tasty dishes while using little salt. "Best Recipes to Fight High Blood Pressure" by Professor Chung Nam-sik at the Severance Hospital of Yonsei University Health System, the Nutrition Team at the hospital and CJ Freshway, published by Vita Books, offers some solutions. Experts calculated the amount of sodium included in each ingredient, and developed recipes in which ingredients other than salt still please the palate. The Korea Times will introduce some recipes from this book from next week, which will help not only those who suffer from high blood pressure but also healthy people who want tasty dishes while maintaining appropriate blood pressure.
Here are some tips offered by the book to lower sodium intake.
— Rice is better than bread or noodles as the latter includes salt when making dough.
— However, Korean traditional dishes are often salty. One should try to reduce eating the number of dishes that are based on traditional sauces such as soy sauce, red pepper paste, or soybean paste. One should try to focus on the taste of ingredients rather than indulging in salt. Making sauces based on garlic or onions are other options.
— Kimchi, which Korean's can't live without, has much sodium. One should have only a small quantity of kimchi or decrease the sodium in it. Cutting the kimchi into small pieces will also help lessen the amount consumed.
— Potassium helps excretion of sodium. Hence, it is recommended that one eats vegetables and fruit with abundant potassium. However, these foods should be avoided by people who have chronic kidney diseases.
— When eating traditional soup or porridge, try to only eat the chunks and avoid drinking the liquid.
— Some people add salt when they are eating soup without hesitation, but they should taste it beforehand in order to decide whether to add salt. It is often the case that additional salt is unnecessary. When you eat out, food is usually hot, salty, sweet, and greasy. Such strong flavors often make you consume lot of sodium on top of gaining weight. It would be better to prepare food at home, at least on weekends.
— Check nutrition facts and choose food that contains less sodium. There are diverse low-sodium food products on the market these days.
The book also provides tips on how to make dishes tasty while using little salt.
— Use fresh ingredients, focusing on their own taste.
— Instead of salt, try using black pepper, garlic, ginger, red pepper, or wasabi to add taste to dishes. When you add salt or soy sauce, do so at the last moment right before eating instead of putting them in from the beginning.
— When making soup or porridge, using stock made with Japanese anchovy, onion, kelp, shrimp or shiitake mushrooms instead of salt and soy sauce will help cutting sodium intake while making the soup tasty.
— Marinating fish with ginger juice, minced garlic or green tea before boiling fish can add to the flavor.
— Don't add salt to seafood because it already contains salt. Kelp and sea mustard should be put in fresh water for a while before cooking because they contain a lot of salt.
—Eat fresh vegetables at least once a day.
— Add tofu, nuts or mushrooms to soybean paste or red pepper paste to slash your intake of sodium.
— Though tasty, a pack of ramyeon has more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium, which is a daily recommendation. By putting the noodles in boiling water before cooking them, one can partly get rid of the sodium. The same applies to other processed foods such as sausage, ham and bacon. Use only a portion of the ramyeon soup base. If you can't give up ramyeon, add vegetables so that the fiber and potassium in vegetables can help with excretion of sodium.