|▲ Korea now seriously needs to go on a sodium diet.|
The only weakness of Korean food culture, which is represented by slow food and fermented food, is that most foods taste salty. Common salt is a compound of 40% of sodium and 60% of chlorine, and this sodium can be a problem. All Koreans relish eating red pepper paste, soybean paste, soy sauce, salted fish, and instant noodles, etc. However, these foods all include so much sodium. Excessive sodium intake is particularly dangerous for university students, who often eat instant food and eat out.
The rate of sodium intake from different types of food is 31% from soups, stews, and noodles, 26% from side dishes, 23% from Kimchi, 9% from snacks, 6% from rice and 5% from other sources. Also, the content of instant food which university students often eat is about 700mg from Kimbap or seaweed covered rice snacks, 1700mg from instant cup ramen and 600mg from sandwiches. According to statistics, Koreans’ average daily intake of sodium per serving comes from home-cooked meals (1342mg), eating-out (1959mg) and communal feeding (2236mg) in order. Based on this situation, the food service industry and the communal feeding industry also need to reduce sodium for modern people who often eat out. Kim Young-jin, a student in the department of business administration, said, “When I have several classes in a row, I have no time to eat lunch, so I often eat Kimbap or instant cup ramen. Also, I often eat ramen with cold rice and Kimchi. I knew that ramen had much sodium, but I was surprised that I ate most of recommended daily intake of sodium by eating only ramen.” And this also happens to most people, who do not realize how they take in sodium and consume excessive sodium.
Sodium helps stimulate nerves, which is involved in muscle contraction and helps maintain the acid-base balance. Therefore, sodium itself is not harmful, but if it is consumed excessively, this can lead to problems. If people take in sodium excessively, they may develop hypertension, gastritis, brain diseases and osteoporosis. Moreover, people can get addicted to sodium or salty taste. Salty taste produces a hedonic response, and the brain remembers that feeling, so people expect salty taste with every meal. To solve a sodium addiction problem, it is helpful to reduce amount of sodium stage by stage. According to the results of an experiment about one’s taste, when reducing the amount of sodium by 5% to 10%, people do not feel change in flavor and eat as it is. Thus, it is possible to reduce the sodium content of the food we eat for everyone using this strategy.
These days, a number of efforts to reduce sodium have been undertaken. At the national level, The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety launched the ‘Reducing Sodium Campaign’ in March 2012, to offer a solution about over-consumption of salt. This campaign developed a nationwide movement connected with enterprises and citizens. On March 13th, 2013, ‘No Soup Day’ on the third Wednesday of every month was proclaimed. Soup or stew which Korean enjoy eating accounts for 30.7% of total sodium intake each day. Considering that the recommended daily intake of sodium is 2000mg, people take in almost half of recommended sodium through soup or stew in just one meal. The ‘Choosing Soup Bowl’ program is conducted as a practical way to reduce sodium by using small soup bowl.
In addition, food distributors are making efforts for health of the people. It helps office workers to get accustomed to low-salt food. For example, ‘Ourhome’ which is communal feeding enterprise, is carrying on a campaign ‘Eat slightly salted food’ and providing a low-salt menu. Also, ‘CJ Freshway’ provides a ‘503 menu’ which has 500 calories and 3g of salt in each item.
Some universities are also participating to reduce sodium. Seoul National University has plans to reduce the salinity of food by 0.8% in their school cafeterias. They distribute soup dividing in small quantity and large quantity. Dongyang University is also providing a low-salt menu, and is installing salimeters in the all eating facilities to apply optimal salt. They limit the usage processed food or frozen food which includes much of the sodium in many meals.
Then, how about Dongguk University? Dongguk University has made efforts to reduce sodium, but more plans and actions are needed. Dongguk nutritionists make an effort to cook with as little salt as possible, without making food taste bland. Also, starting from this semester, salt was provided separately and people who want salt can use it. In addition, the cafeteria for teachers which is operated by food distributors ‘Ourhome’ offers information about the quantity of salt in each meal. The Post interviewed the nutritionist of Sanglokwon, the main school cafeteria. She said, “We agonize about reducing sodium, but it is difficult to go into action. Lots of students want to eat spicy or strong-tasting food, so reducing sodium could lead to complaints from students. However, I think that it is necessary to reduce sodium for students’ health.”
There are efforts which individuals can practice to easily reduce sodium intake. First, reduce the size of the soup bowl you use. Soup or stew which includes a lot of salt is the main problem to be solved. Therefore, using smaller soup bowls is an important step. Second, use vinegar or flavor enhancer instead of using salt. Vinegar or flavor enhancer helps people not to miss a salty flavor. Third, use vegetables and fruit which have a strong scent. Vegetables like crown daisy, water parsley, bell pepper, carrot, and celery have strong scent, so they can help improve the taste of food. Forth, make full use of natural seasoning like anchovy, shrimp and kelp. Next, it is better to season before you eat. If seasoning when it is hot, people cannot taste properly. Finally, eat together with foods that increase sodium excretion. Cabbage, potato, sweet potato, chives and mushroom are effective for sodium excretion.
Too much is as bad as too little. Proper intake of sodium is essential for our bodies, but excessive intake is very dangerous to our health. Individuals as well as the government, businesses and schools should face a matter squarely and make efforts to reduce sodium consumption. Healthy eating habits make people healthy. Starting from small practices like using small-size soup bowl, be a smart eater, who can protect your health.
Sim Su-ji firstname.lastname@example.org
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