Research by UCL academic Dr Derin Balogun and volunteers at Heart Campaign has discovered dangerous levels of salt in African and Caribbean foods served in many dishes within restaurants across London.

Dr Derin Balogun and volunteers from Heart Campaign, a voluntary organisation which aims to raise awareness of cardiovascular and other related health issues found high levels of salt in popular dishes such as Rice and Beans (Waakye), which contains 12g salt, or the equivalent to 30 packets of ready salted crisps.

Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas contain 7.6g of salt, the equivalent to 19 packets of ready salted crisps.

It was also found that a loaf of hard dough bread contained 19g of salt whilst Knoor seasoning contained 5.4g of salt.

The recommended daily intake of salt is 6g (a teaspoon) and research has linked high salt intake as a contributory factor to high blood pressure, stroke and heart problems; health problems specifically linked to the African Caribbean community in the UK.

Dr Derin Balogun recommended that people from African Caribbean backgrounds begin to become aware of what they eat by not cutting out the foods they like altogether, but reducing the portions they eat and the amount of times they eat it on a daily or weekly basis.

According to the Blood Pressure Association “People of African Caribbean descent are more sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of salt compared with other ethnic groups.” They also said that cutting down on salt reduces your blood pressure and risk of stroke and heart disease.

The Blood Pressure Association recommends eating foods like “Low-fat and low-salt dairy produce e.g. natural yogurt and skimmed milk. Starch foods like potatoes, cassava, yam, grains, oats and rice fruits, vegetables and pulses (fresh, frozen, dried or tinned with no salt) fresh fish, plain chicken, lean meat, eggs, unsalted nuts and seeds.”

On the Caribbean Emporium website Patricia Thompson M.Sc. Registered Nutritionist, says that Guava has four times the amount of fibre, more potassium and 19 times more vitamin C as an American apple.

She said that coconut water contains less than half the calories of cranberry juice and more potassium.

Callaloo has more than four times the calcium,  more than two times the iron and twice the vitamin A as American vegetables.

Wheat bread, green banana, sweet potato and breadfruit contain more fibre than rolled oats. However, do note that Patricia Thompson was comparing Jamaican foods to American foods.

Also note that on 24 March 2011, Heart Campaign will host an event in partnership with UCL, to discuss the issues raised in this research including local governments, health policy makers, health care providers, experts in the field of hypertension, and members of relevant communities.

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