Salt and sugar are essential for flavor and preservation, but if used in excess they can pose significant health risks, especially in the confined environment of a vessel. This article will delve into the dangers of excessive salt and sugar intake, highlight what to avoid, and provide actionable tips to mitigate risks and promote healthier choices onboard.

How much is too much?

The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 36 grams (9 teaspoons) and women consume no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugars per day.  When it comes to salt, the recommendation is to consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is about a teaspoon of salt. Reports according to our databases show that so far in 2024,fleets are consuming an average of 154 grams of sugar  and 9929 miligrams of salt per man per day.Salt and sugar consumption therefore demands particular attention.

The Dangers of Overconsumption

  1. Salt (Sodium Chloride)
"Salt makes almost everything taste better, but too much is linked to heart disease. Eating a lot of salt is a habit, and habits can be retrained, " advises Pettie Peeters, the IFS nutritionist.Excessive salt intake can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure ), a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Considering the stressful and physically demanding nature of maritime work, hypertension poses a significant health risk to crew members. Moreover, high salt intake can increase dehydration. 
  1. Sugar
  Overconsumption of sugar is linked to various health issues, including obesity and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, sugar-laden foods and beverages can cause energy crashes, impairing crew members' performance and alertness.

What to Avoid

  1. Processed and Canned Foods: These often contain high levels of added salt for flavor enhancement and preservation. Opt for fresh or minimally processed alternatives whenever possible.
  1. Sweetened Beverages: Sodas, energy drinks, and sweetened juices are full of hidden sugars. Encourage crew members to choose water, herbal teas, or unsweetened beverages instead.
  1. High-Sodium Condiments: Soy sauce, ketchup, and salad dressings can significantly increase salt intake. Offer low-sodium alternatives or encourage moderation when using these condiments.

Easy Ways to Reduce Sugar and Salt in Your Diet

  1. Menu Planning: Design menus with an emphasis on fresh, whole ingredients. Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, fresh herbs, and whole grains to provide flavor and nutrition without excessive salt or sugar. Learn more about meal planning here.
  1. Cooking Techniques: Experiment with herbs (basil, thyme, mint), spices, and citrus juices to enhance flavor without relying on salt or sugar. Explore different cooking techniques such as grilling, roasting, and steaming. These cooking methods intensify natural flavors without the need for added salt or sugar.
  1. Educational Initiatives: International Food Services provides training and informational posters to empower Chief Cooks to make healthier choices onboard.Chief Cooks in IFS-catered vessels are encouraged to join the Cooks Club, where these resources are shared.
 By understanding the dangers of overconsumption of salt and sugar and implementing strategies to reduce intake, Chief Cooks can support the overall health and performance of maritime personnel. 

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