Alhamdulillah was-salatu was-salaamu 'ala rasoolillah. All thanks and praise is to ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, and we ask that HIS blessings and peace be upon HIS Messenger, Muhammad, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam.
As the Blessed month of Ramadan approaches, IFANCA wishes all of you Ramadan Mubarak. May ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, accept your fasting, your night prayers and other deeds and reward you with mercy and blessings.
The British Food Standards Agency is running a campaign to help consumers reduce the amount of salt in their diets. Their purpose is to help save lives. High blood pressure causes 170,000 deaths a year in England alone. Consuming too much salt increases the risk factor for high blood pressure, which increases the likelihood of developing heart disease and stroke by a factor of three. Reducing salt intake has shown a significant effect on blood pressure in as little as four weeks. To maintain the effect, lower salt consumption should be maintained.
Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. The chemical reactions inside our bodies need sodium. We can't survive without it, but adding salt to foods is a relatively new phenomenon. Before that, consumers got all the sodium they needed from the animals and fish they ate. As humans learned to grow crops and their meat consumption decreased, they had to get their salt in other ways. When it was discovered that salt could be used to preserve meat, salt intake increased as preserved meats were consumed. With the advent of refrigeration, it was no longer necessary to salt meats and salt became used as a preservative for other foods.
Some of you may be asking "Don't I need a certain amount of salt"? Yes, you do, but while the body needs salt, there is usually more than enough natural salt in most of the foods we eat; so added salt is almost unnecessary. The minimum amount of salt needed is 2g per day. The recommended limit for adults is 6g per day while most people consume 9.5g per day.
6g of salt are about a teaspoonful. Children should consume less salt than adults. Babies under 1 year old should not consume more than 1g of salt a day since their kidneys cannot cope with larger amounts. Be careful feeding infants adult food, which will contain higher amounts of salt.
Another question you might have is "What about the taste"? While consumers who are used to high levels of salt will notice a difference in taste, the taste buds will soon adapt to the lower level of salt.
Okay, so how do you keep track of your salt intake? Most foods will list the salt content on the nutrition label. Some foods may only list sodium on the nutrition label. The salt content is 2 ½ times the sodium content, so if a serving has 0.50g of sodium, it will have 1.25g of salt per serving. Be sure to check the serving size. If a serving is 100g and contains 0.50g of sodium and you eat 300g, that is 3 servings, which means you consumed 3.75g of salt.
The main sources of salt in the UK are bread and cereal products, processed meats and fish products and dairy products. While some of these products may not contain high amounts of salt, they are eaten in large amounts and on a regular basis, so they contribute a significant amount of salt to the consumer's diet.
Almost 75% of salt intake comes from processed foods. Since most eat some processed foods it is important to cut down on added salt and to check ingredient labels for the amount of salt in the processed foods we buy. Foods such as salted peanuts, pretzels, salted fish and salted potato chips and French fries are obviously high in salt. However, cheese, smoked meat, soy sauce, breakfast cereals, pizza, soups and canned vegetables can also be high in salt. Some foods like cereal may contain sugar, which makes it difficult to taste the salt in them. Check the labels and look for lower salt content foods.
Again, too much salt in the diet increases the risk factor for high blood pressure. Over one third of the population in England already has high blood pressure. Consuming too much salt will increase the blood pressure further. And the problem does not only affect older people. High blood pressure can be a problem at any age. Often people do not realize they have high blood pressure until they develop heart disease or have a heart attack or stroke. The only way to find out is to have it measured.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pressing against the walls of the arteries, as the heart pumps blood around the body. As you know, the heart contracts to pump blood through the arteries. Then it relaxes. This is the heartbeat. The pressure when the heart contracts is called the systolic pressure and when it relaxes it is called the diastolic pressure. This is normally reported in mmHG (millimeters of mercury) as 130 over 70, for the systolic and diastolic pressures.
High blood pressure can damage the heart because the extra pressure causes the heart to work harder to pump blood around the body. This damage can lead to heart failure and increase the risk of having a heart attack. It can also increase the risk of atherosclerosis. (We discussed atherosclerosis in the last issue of Halal Digest. Reducing your blood pressure reduces the risk of developing heart disease, even if your blood pressure is already within the normal range.
While one's blood pressure generally increases with age, research has shown the increase is lower in places where people consume less salt. While most salt intake comes from processed foods, about 10-15% comes from added salt. To reduce salt intake, consumers should reduce or eliminate their own salt addition and buy processed foods containing less salt.
High blood pressure also triples the risk of having a stroke. There are 50,000 deaths a year in England that are caused by strokes. A stroke occurs when one of the blood vessels that supplies the brain bursts or becomes blocked. The part of the brain that is supplied by that blood vessel is deprived of oxygen and is damaged. Strokes often cause paralysis. Reducing salt intake can reduce blood pressure, which reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. It is important to also include plenty of fruit and vegetables in the diet.
Of course, cutting down on salt intake is only part of eating healthily. It is important to include fruit and vegetables and fiber in the diet as well. And foods with unsaturated fats are also important to lower cholesterol.
To help get over the initial flavor issues of reducing salt, try using other flavor enhancers such as fresh herbs, marinades, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, tomatoes and pepper. And remember, spice mixes may contain salt.
Research at the University of Kansas has shown that the herb gugulipid, which helps lower cholesterol, can also break down prescription drugs that fight cancer.(Reported in www.foodingredientsfirst.com on September 29, 2004.)
Brits looking to lower their fat intake may not want to switch from a hamburger to the Chicken Caesar salad at McDonald's 1235 outlets in the United Kingdom. It turns out the Caesar salad has more fat than the standard hamburger. And if the Caesar dressing and croutons are added, the fat and calories skyrocket.(Reported in www.foodingredientsfirst.com on September 30, 2004.)
Europeans eat more than twice the amount of seafood as Americans do on an annual basis and the Japanese eat more than five times as much. However, American's consumption of seafood is increasing and sales are forecast to rise 29% by 2009.(Reported in www.just-food.com on September 29, 2004.)
The Australia Meat Industry's inaugural processor/exporter conference discussed opportunities for Australia's Halal food industry. Delegates to the conference were told that the Halal food trade is worth US$150 billion annually. Gary Hargrove, the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs told the delegates that the Halal market significant growth prospects.(Reported in the Manning river Times on September 14, 2004.)
The state of New Jersey has issued new guidelines on the labeling of Halal food. The guidelines provide the basis for compliance with the Halal Food Law. Disclosure forms for slaughterhouses selling livestock, slaughterhouses selling poultry, retail establishments and restaurants must be completed by the food handlers and merchants. Slaughterhouses must disclose which auctions they buy their animals from, whether the animals consume feed containing animal byproducts, whether the animal is stunned before slaughter, whether the animal is slaughtered by a Muslim who recites the Tasmiyyah and Takbir, whether pigs are slaughtered on the same premises as the Halal animals and how the food is handled and stored after slaughter. (Reported in the Ashbury Park Press and cbsnewyork.com on September 16-17, 2004.)
We frequently receive questions about products and ingredients. Here are a few of the questions we received recently.
1. Are Mono and Di-glycerides Halal? Mono and di-glycerides are fatty substances that are used as emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are compounds used to keep oils or fats and water dispersed in one phase (i.e., they prevent oil and water from separating).
Mono and di-glycerides can be derived from animal or vegetable sources. When derived from vegetable sources, they are Halal. When derived from animal sources, they are questionable. More information is required to determine if they are Halal. If the animal is a Halal animal processed according to Islamic law, and all the subsequent processing qualifies for Halal, then they would be Halal. Otherwise, they are haram.
Sometimes the ingredients will say vegetable mono and di-glycerides or 100% vegetable mono and di-glycerides. In that case, they would be acceptable for the Halal consumer. If that is not indicated on the label, you may want to contact the manufacturer of the product and ask about the source of the mono and di-glycerides. If the source is not known, Halal consumers should avoid them. (If the product is certified Halal, then it would be acceptable.)
Mono and di-glycerides are used in a wide variety of products, including baked goods, peanut butter, margarine, shortening and other products.
2. Is Chocolate Liquor Haram? Chocolate liquor is a sweet syrup containing chocolate, sugar and other ingredients. It is used in making candy, drinks and other chocolate flavored products. It does not contain any alcohol, so it is not haram.
As is always the case, it is best to consume Halal certified products.