Australians are eating too much salt and this over a long period of time can have an effect on health. It can contribute to chronic disease such as blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. There is a linear relationship with high sodium intake and high blood pressure and reducing the salt intake of someone with high blood pressure is the most effective dietary management.
Our taste buds adapt to our salt intake, and as we age our tastebuds reduce in number – which explains your parents or grandparents adding more salt to their meals. Some people are also more sensitive to salt. Salt, or sodium chloride (NaCl) has been used for centuries to enhance the flavor of foods, improve the texture of baked goods, and to preserve foods.
Our body does require some sodium for its health and functioning, but only in a small amount (200mg/day). It assists our body to regulate the acid-base balance, fluid regulation and balance, helping to control our body temperature, to name just a few. Our body also needs adequate iodine and using a little iodised salt is the most common way we achieve this.
The national guidelines advised by the National Health and Medical Research Council sets an upper limit of 2300mg each day, which is 6g (approx. 1¼ tsp salt per day). It is reported that most Australians are eating this amount or higher each day. The sodium target for all Australians is 1600mg or less each day or 4g (approx. ¾ tsp a day).
When most people think about shaking their salt habit, they think of removing the salt added to foods at the table. The salt used from the salt shaker only contributes 15% to the daily intake for Australians today, and another 10% is from natural sodium found in foods. The highest proportion (75% of salt that we eat) comes from takeaway and processed foods – and some foods more obvious than others. Common culprits include deli meats, Asian style sauces and marinades, stocks, soups, bottled sauces, packet seasonings and dried foods (eg noodles). All types of salt (eg Himalayan, rock, pink, crystal) have the same sodium level – some just have other minerals present as well.
Some Simple Salt Swaps
50g shaved ham (790mg) choose instead 100g grilled chicken breast – home prepared (74mg)
1 tbsp soy sauce (993mg) choose instead 1 tbsp salt reduced soy sauce (536mg)
1 cup cornflakes (204mg) choose instead 1 bowl of rolled oats (5mg)
sourdough bread roll (793mg) choose instead capeseed bread roll (271mg)
2 slices of bread (300mg) choose instead 4 vitaweets (105mg)
Ways to Reduce your Salt Intake
Choose foods that are fresh, whole and real and not processed, as these are naturally lower in salt. The more processed a food is, the higher its sodium content. If buying processed foods, choose “no added salt” or “salt reduced varieties” wherever possible. Savour the flavor by experimenting with herbs, spices, black pepper, crushed red pepper, add some acidity (citrus juices, vinegars), seaweed and use slow cooking and grilling methods to enrich the flavor of the meal. Use this guide to look for lower sodium foods in the supermarket.
Become a Salt Detective
IDEAL < 120mg per 100g
OK 120-600mg per 10g
HIGH > 600mg per 100g