Salt In Your Diet
Research has shown that a high salt (sodium) intake is linked to increased blood pressure (hypertension) which can lead to serous health complications.
Research has shown that a high salt (sodium) intake is linked to increased blood pressure (hypertension) which can lead to serious health complications. It is also well known that a diet that is high in salt can worsen existing hypertension. However, by eating less salt, this can help lower your blood pressure.
How much salt do we need?
- 5g – just one teaspoon – is the maximum amount of salt an adult should consume in one day.
- This equals to 2 000mg of sodium daily.
How to choose less salty foods?
- Read the ingredients list on food items to help identify foods that are high in salt – the first three ingredients listed on a label make up the largest portion of the food. So avoid or eat less of a food if the word ‘salt’ or any word with ‘sodium’ is listed in the first three ingredients.
- Key words to watch out for include: salt (sodium chloride or NaCl), monosodium glutamate (MSG) baking soda or baking powder (sodium bicarbonate).
- Look at the number for sodium in the per 100g column of the Nutritional Information table. Compare similar products, choosing the one with the lowest amount of sodium:
- 120 mg per 100 g sodium = low sodium product.
- 40 mg per 100 g sodium = very low sodium product.
- 5 mg per 100 g sodium = virtually free or free from sodium product.
Use foods that are high in salt less often
- Fresh foods have less salt than processed foods.
- Prepare and eat more unprocessed and home-cooked meals – by cooking meals from scratch instead of ready-made meals, take-aways and convenience meals, you have more control over how much salt is added to the meal.
- Use unprocessed meat, chicken, fish and give preference to fresh, tinned or frozen vegetables with no added salt.
- Use less tomato sauce, mustard, soya sauce, pickles, olives, gravy powders, sauces and salad dressings – as these tend to be high in salt.
- Aim to reduce how much cured, smoked and deli meats you eat. Swap these high-salt processed meats like polony, sausages, viennas and boerewors for lean, fresh sliced meats or fish.
- Instead of salty snacks like chips, keep healthier snacks on hand, such as fresh fruit or raw, unsalted nuts.
- Vary packed lunches with lower salt alternatives: options include fresh fruit, mixed fruit salad, yoghurt, unsalted nuts, dried fruit and unsalted popcorn.
Tips to cook with less salt
- While cooking, taste your food before you add salt, as it may not need any extra salt.
- If you have already added salty spices or flavour enhancers (e.g. stock cubes, gravy powder, chicken spice), you don’t need to add salt too.
- If you used salt during cooking, it is not necessary to add more at the table. Be sure to always taste your food before adding salt at the table; very often we add salt simply from habit and not because of taste.
- Learn to use herbs and spices instead of salt or salty seasonings to make food tasty – these can be used fresh or dry. Lemon juice activates the same taste receptors as salt; and so makes an excellent alternative to salt.
- Here are some ideas on how to bring flavour to your food without adding salt:
- Lemon juice or vinegar
- Herbs (fresh or dried): parsley, bay leaf, oregano, mixed herbs, rosemary
- Spices: curry powder, turmeric, nutmeg, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper
- Garlic, ginger, chili and onion
So remember, rather spice things up than add a pinch of salt!
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