Salt In Your Diet

Salt In Your Diet
It might make food more tasty, but too much salt can be bad for your health.
Research has shown that a high salt (sodium) intake is linked to increased blood pressure (hypertension) which can lead to serous health complications.
Melanie Sher
Melanie Sher - Registered dietitian
19 March 2019 | 4 minute read
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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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