In Australia, we consume much more salt that we need. Salt, sodium, and rock salt – It’s all the same! The average Australian consumes a huge eight – nine times more sodium than we need for good health.
How much salt should we consume each day?
Australian dietary guidelines recommend adults keep sodium (salt) intake to 1600 mg each day. An ‘Upper Limit’ or maximum of 2300 mg per day has also been set, with intakes above this level likely to cause harm.
Why salt is bad for our health
Too much salt increases the risk of high blood pressure (also known as ‘hypertension’).
A small amount of salt is actually important for good health – it helps regulate the amount of fluid in our body. However, the more salt you eat the more your blood vessels retain water. This extra water increases the volume of blood in your arteries, causing high blood pressure.
High blood pressure has a number of dangerous long-term health outcomes, greatly increasing your risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney disease.
The good news is, by making some simple adjustments to your diet you can reduce your salt intake and help drop your risk of developing high blood pressure.
Foods high in salt:
If you add a heavy shake of salt to a meal i.e. ½ teaspoon of salt, this equates to half the adult daily allowance! Further, a seemingly harmless ham and cheese sandwich can provide a four year old; with more than one and a half times the amount of salt they need each day!
Most of the salt we consume comes from the processed foods we buy. Foods particularly high in salt include:
- Bread (lower sodium options are available)
- Fast foods including pizza and hot chips
- Dehydrated or packet foods, such as instant pasta or soups
- Processed meats
- Sauces and condiments, such as tomato and soy sauce
- Parmesan cheese
- Many canned foods, including vegetables
- Potato chips
Salt also occurs naturally in many foods we eat such as meat, fish, milk, eggs and vegetables, though in smaller amounts.
To eat less salt:
- Eat fresh food instead of processed food where possible
- Use cold roast meat or poultry for sandwich fillings instead of processed meats
- Use herbs and spices such as garlic, oregano and lemon juice to add flavour to meals in place of salt
- Use small amounts of salty sauces (i.e. gravy, stock powder, soy sauce)
- Cut back on takeaway and fast foods
- Buy ‘low salt’ or ‘salt free’ versions of commonly used foods, such as tomato sauce and canned goods
When ordering takeaway:
- Opt for steamed rice over fried
- Minimise the amount of stir-fry sauce
- Improve pastas by skipping the parmesan
- Choose pizzas without olives, anchovies or processed meats
Understanding salt in food labels:
A big step in the right direction is getting into the habit of reviewing the nutrition information panels on products. Choose products with 120mg of sodium/salt per 100g or less or no more than 600mg of sodium per serve.
Reducing your salt intake need not be difficult; it can be as easy as switching brands for the lower sodium option and preparing your meals with largely fresh ingredients.