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Aug 17, 2008 07:17 AM

Sodium Levels in Indian Food

Hello All-

I have been looking for an answer to this questions for quite some time, but can't find anything helpful. I am under doctor's orders to keep my sodium level each day to 2000mg or less. This means that I need to plan my meals all day to make sure I have enough space in my sodium intake for a dinner out.

I have always loved Indian food, but I have no idea of what the sodium levels are. The major culprits are salt and soy for most foods, but obviously sodium pops up in places you never expect it (just look at your ingredients when you buy anything processed).

Does any know if certain dished are made, or can be made, with low sodium levels at a typical Indian restaurant? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Many Indian dishes involve a long cooking time, so it is unlikely that they would make a special batch that is under salted.

    On the other hand, heavily spiced foods don't need as much salt as bland ones to taste good.

    1. This is an impossible question to answer. Each restaurant has their own chef and each chef salts and spices the food to their taste. If someone asked you, "what is the sodium level of American food?" Would you be able to answer?

      2 Replies
      1. re: KTinNYC

        KT is right. there's no way to answer this question.

        but you can pretty much guarantee that restaurant food in general contains a heck of a lot more salt than something you prepare at home.

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          I've seen a number of posts on different food forums about excess salt content in Indian restaurant food -my advice would be to make your own and avoid restaurants altogether.

      2. Actually, Indian dishes are meant to be eaten with rice or bread, never alone. Therefore, to make sure that the salt level stands up to the combination of dish plus starch, they are traditionally made saltier than what Americans are use to. Same with many rice-staple cuisines...Chinese, too! A heaping tsp. of salt is added to a dish for about 6 people in a typical Indian recipe. This is true in Indian homecooking and Indian restaurants that cater to mainly Indian diners. I don't know if Indian restaurants that cater to a more American clientele (like your typical creamy Star of India Buffet or whatever) use less salt because the Americans are probably eating less rice/bread (are they?). These restaurants certainly use less chilies. You can request that dishes at these places be made less salty, but one problem would be that in these types of restaurants there are often pre-made sauces that already contain salt set aside for made to order dishes, like a red gravy for tomato based, a yoghurt-onion gravy for yoghurt based, etc. You could always go for your own homecooked Indian dishes!

        1. Do you have any restrictions for sugar intake?
          Indian restaurant food ( of all ethnicities) is always "balanced" with sugar. Some resto owners admit it , some deny it but almost everyone does it to their curries ( tomato , coconut cream or onion based), sambhar, all gujarati dishes, chaat, snacks, and even naans .Even the curry sauces sold in bottles and pouches have sugar .

          2 Replies
          1. re: JiyoHappy

            I think only certain regional Indian cuisines use sugar frequently, like Gujarati for example. Tamarind sauce will have sugar as well. But generic Indian restaurant food probably doesn't have any. I never cook with sugar in savory dishes unless it is a chutney or something specifically Gujarati style.

            1. re: luckyfatima

              Exactly my point. We don't use sugar in "curries" at home, but restaurants do.

          2. If you are on a low sodium diet, it's probably best to prepare your Indian food at home. Not sure where you're located, but I found one place in NYC that does prepare Indian food with not much salt. It's called Ayurveda Cafe. I know some hounds find the stuff very bland and tasteless. But that's because it's kind of a health restaurant (ayurveda is a traditional system of healthcare in India). The food is not strongly spiced, not too oily and salted very slightly. Personally, I love it because I feel great after eating there.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Miss Needle

              Yes - I just cooked an Indian meal last night, and the recipes I used called for very little salt.

              1. re: MMRuth

                True. A few of my Indian friends tell me what they eat at home is so different from what is generally served at N. Indian restaurants. They say it's a lot lighter.

                With something like Madhur Jaffrey's recipes, I generally also halve the oil to suit my tastes. But I find with Suvir Saran's recipes, he is much lighter with fats. So I don't adjust as much.

              2. re: Miss Needle

                Thank you so much for mentioning this restaurant. I have been craving Indian food but despairing of finding any with low sodium. I will check out this restaurant in the hope that it might cook, or be able to cook, Indian food with less sodium.