6 of The Saltiest Hawker Foods in Singapore

by Felicia Choo
FOOD  |  July 11, 2017
  • Consumption of salt in Singapore
    1 / 13 Consumption of salt in Singapore

    Singaporeans are big consumers of salt. Each person on average consumes 8.3g of salt daily, over 60 per cent above the recommended daily level of 5g or about a teaspoon.

    This statistic is from the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) Salt Intake Study that was part of the National Nutrition Survey in 2010.

    Here is a guide to knowing your salt from sodium, and the amounts found in hawker food like Hokkien mee and curry, as shared by dietitians Daphne Loh from Gleneagles Hospital and Jaclyn Reutens from Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants.

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  • The difference between salt and sodium
    2 / 13 The difference between salt and sodium

    Though salt and sodium are used interchangeably, they have distinct chemical and structural differences.

    Sodium is a mineral, whereas salt is a crystalline compound. About 40 per cent of salt is composed of sodium, with the remaining 60 per cent being chloride.

    Sodium occurs naturally in food and is also added during manufacturing. Salt is the main source of sodium in our diet.

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  • Recommended daily intake of salt
    3 / 13 Recommended daily intake of salt

    The recommended daily intake of salt is 5g, or one teaspoon. This is equivalent to no more than 2,000mg of sodium.

    (Also read: Sodium is Preventing You From Losing Weight)

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  • Why we need salt - but not too much
    4 / 13 Why we need salt - but not too much

    Our body needs the right amount of salt to maintain the right volume of blood and tissue fluids circulating around the body. They help to control muscle contraction and nerve impulses.

    If we consume too little salt (which rarely happens), a condition called hyponatraemia may occur. In severe cases, a person may experience nausea, vomiting and dizziness and fall into a coma.

    If we take too much salt, the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) increases. Hypertension is a silent killer because it is linked to cardiovascular and kidney disease.

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  • Common ingredients with sodium
    5 / 13 Common ingredients with sodium

    Besides salt, food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium nitrite and sodium benzoate contribute to the total amount of sodium listed on the label.

    Sauces such as tomato ketchup, chilli sauce and belachan can contain high amounts of salt even though they taste sweet or spicy.

    Foods that have been pickled may taste more sour than salty, but they actually have a high salt content.

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  • Some foods do not taste salty but have a high sodium content
    6 / 13 Some foods do not taste salty but have a high sodium content

    Taste alone is not an accurate way to judge the sodium content of a dish.

    While some foods that are high in sodium (like pickles and soya sauce) taste salty, there are others (like cereals and pastries) that contain sodium but do not taste salty.

    Some foods that you may eat several times a day, such as bread and noodles, can add up to a lot of sodium, even though an individual serving may not be high in sodium.

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  • Saltiest hawker dish in Singapore: Laksa
    7 / 13 Saltiest hawker dish in Singapore: Laksa

    Many hawker dishes are loaded with sodium. Laksa, for example, contains 7,904mg of sodium in one portion. Subtract the gravy and the sodium level dips to 1,592mg.

    (Also read: Roasted Chicken Rice VS Roasted Duck Rice – Which is Unhealthier?)

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  • Saltiest hawker food in Singapore: Mee goreng
    8 / 13 Saltiest hawker food in Singapore: Mee goreng

    Mee goreng is next on the list, containing 2,607mg of sodium in one serving.

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  • Saltiest hawker food in Singapore: Chicken curry noodles
    9 / 13 Saltiest hawker food in Singapore: Chicken curry noodles

    Chicken curry noodles are close behind, with 2,581mg sodium per serving.

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  • Saltiest hawker food in Singapore: Seafood ee mian
    10 / 13 Saltiest hawker food in Singapore: Seafood ee mian

    Seafood ee mian (crispy noodles) have 2,227mg sodium per dish. Bet you didn’t think it was THIS salty.

    (Also read: Hawker Foods That Are Good For You)

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  • Saltiest hawker food in Singapore: Char kway teow
    11 / 13 Saltiest hawker food in Singapore: Char kway teow

    Char kway teow ranks fifth, with 1,459mg sodium per serving.

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  • Saltiest hawker food in Singapore: Roast chicken rice
    12 / 13 Saltiest hawker food in Singapore: Roast chicken rice

    Roast chicken rice has 1,264mg sodium per serving – comparable to one tablespoon of light soya sauce with 1,240mg.

    (Also read: 7 Foods That Are Surprisingly High in Sodium)

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  • Healthier alternatives to salt
    13 / 13 Healthier alternatives to salt

    There aren’t healthier food substances that taste like salt per se, but there are other natural flavouring agents that can make food tasty. These contain sodium in small amounts, or glutamate, a natural flavour-enhancing compound.

    They include herbs and spices such as rosemary, turmeric and basil; vegetables such as celery, onion and carrot; and chicken, beef and pork bones.

    Grilling, braising, roasting, searing and sauteing food can help bring out the natural flavours and reduce the need to add salt.

    A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2017, with the headline ‘Take some foods with a pinch of salt’.

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