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
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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The content in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for seeking any form of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it as a result of something you have read on this Website. Legal and Tax Services, their employees, agents and representatives, are hereby indemnified from any damages or consequential loss suffered for any reason whatsoever that may arise out of or in connection with any article published or made in good faith.

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