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Are you salt savvy?

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 How much salt are we eating?

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends a daily intake of 1.6 grams of sodium, which equates to 4 grams of salt per day (edible salt is made from sodium and chloride). Sodium is essential in the diet but we actually only need to eat 1-2 grams of salt to get what we need. However, most people are eating much more sodium than is good for their health. Australian adults are consuming an average of 9 grams of salt per day, 3 grams more than the safe upper limit of 6 grams!

Where is this salt coming from?

It would appear that 75% of the salt we eat is hidden in processed foods and is often found in the ones we believe are good for us, namely bread and breakfast cereals. Restaurant and takeaway foods also generally contain high salt levels. You can’t always taste the salt in processed foods because it may be disguised by sugar so it’s actually pretty easy to over consume salt. Lets take a look at some common foods and their salt content:

  • Vegemite contains over 7.5 grams of salt per 100 g which is six times the amount found in a classified high salt food.
  • Vegemite on toast or a vegemite sandwich contains about 1 gram of salt.
  • A whole pizza can provide more than double the recommended intake of sodium with an average of 8.3 grams of salt! A new analysis has revealed that 94% of pizzas sold in Australia are overloaded with salt.
  • Bread products account for about a quarter of salt intake in the Australian population with average sodium levels of 430 mg per 100 g of bread (around 2.5 slices).
  •  Ham can contain up to 1.7 grams of sodium per 100 g
  • Sausages can contain up to 2.2 grams of sodium per 100 g

 

So why should you lower your salt intake?

Research has found a striking association between the levels of salt eaten and blood pressure. A high salt intake is implicated in high blood pressure which is a leading risk factor for heart and kidney disease. A high salt diet increases blood pressure by increasing the water in our blood to balance out the high salt concentration. This extra water puts pressure on our blood vessels and can strain the heart which has to work harder at high pressures. Ongoing high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for a stroke or heart attack. Approximately 30% of Australians have high blood pressure with almost 50% unaware that they have it.

How do I lower my salt intake and reduce my risk of a stroke?

Remember, 75% of the salt we eat is hidden in processed foods so it is best to cut down on these types of foods. Processed foods high in salt include bread, breakfast cereals, processed meats and cheeses, soups, stock cubes, sauces and condiments such as soy sauce, tomato sauce and barbeque sauce. Try swapping processed foods for fresh foods and choose salt reduced options if you do eat processed food. When you are cooking, use herbs, spices, lemon juice, vinegar or wine to adjust the flavour instead of adding salt.

Understand food labels to reduce your salt intake

When you are buying packaged foods, check out the Nutrition Information Panel and look at the Quantity per 100 g column. The ingredient to watch out for is sodium and the recommended daily amount of sodium in the diet is 1.6 grams. Choose foods that are low in salt  - foods that have 120 mg of sodium or less per 100 g. Foods that are ok to eat some of the time are those with 120 to 600 mg of sodium per 100 g. Foods which are high in salt and should be avoided are those with 600 mg or more of sodium per 100g.

Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure which increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke at any age. Improve your health by lowering your salt intake starting from today!

 

Author: Emily Greenfield


 

Further reading

AWASH – Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health: http://www.awash.org.au/index.html

Salt – The Better Health Channel: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/salt?open

Ten tips to cut down on salt: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/ten_tips_to_cut_down_on_salt?open

 

  

Are you salt savvy?