x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

A desert battle with salt

Despite my best efforts to avoid sodium in my daily diet, I feel that it will somehow have the last laugh.

Drinking water has become an altogether less pleasurable experience for me of late. Gone are the days of gleefully gulping down glass after refreshing glass. Instead, I now find myself scrutinising the sides of bottles and paying over-inflated prices for fancy French and Norwegian brands in restaurants. I have a good friend to thank for this about-turn in my behaviour, for recently developing kidney stones, which the doctor said was due to my friend's excessive sodium intake.

So debilitating, so painful was the experience for my pal that I decided to do some research of my own to ensure I do not fall prey to the same symptoms. I almost wish I hadn't, for I discovered that when it comes to the formation of calcium stones, salt in all its guises is to blame and not merely the table variety we've all come to know and love.

Indeed, bottled water seemed to be a chief culprit, with some brands containing up to 16mg of sodium in just one litre. Compare that with high-end European brands of water with levels in the low single digits and you realise why the price is three times as high.

In my quest for healthy kidneys, that lifestyle change was the hardest and costliest one for me to make. The easiest, however, was cutting back my salt intake in food. I have always had a natural aversion to salt - be it in the form of cured and smoked foods or even a sprinkling on a portion of French fries. It is without doubt the worst taste in the world for me and the thought of one day mistaking salt granules for sugar brings me out in a cold sweat. This dislike has of course led to some embarrassing moments, namely at a recent dinner party where one bold guest asked me whether I had used any seasoning in the cooking process at all.

Admittedly, I am unlikely to come to a sticky end with sodium-induced high blood pressure or calcium deposits in my major organs. If anything, it's more probable I'll be deficient and need to up my intake of the natural mineral.

Either way, and despite my best efforts to avoid it, I feel sure that salt will somehow have the last laugh. For it stands to reason I must be consuming considerable amounts of it in everything from sauces and dressings to soups and cheeses.

Well, so be it. Life is too short to cut out the things you love and I certainly won't be researching the potential harmful side effects of excessive gorging on dark chocolate any time soon.