Salt in your diet
Over a five year plan (beginning in 2007) food companies and fast food chains (including McDonalds) in Australia have been advised to reduce the sodium in their foods. Why? High salt diets are strongly linked to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease including stroke and heart attack.
Currently Australians are having way too much salt in their diet, double of what is recommended. You need about 2400mg sodium per day, this is about 1 tsp of salt. 75% of our salt intake is from hidden salt, the salt in the packaged and processed foods, so it’s not just a matter of cutting back the salt you put on your meals and in your cooking, don’t get me wrong though, this will also help.
There are different names for salt including table salt, rock salt, iodised salt, sea salt and flavoured salts such as chicken salt, all of these are still salt and still need to be avoided. There are also salt substitutes which are lower in sodium, but be careful of these particularly if you suffer from kidney or heart disease or diabetes as these contain potassium which may harm the heart. Instead of using the salts or salt substitutes to flavour your foods, experiment with different herbs and spices such as garlic, onion, pepper, chilli, vinegar, coriander, parsley, lime, oregano etc.
There have been raised concerns about iodine deficiency in Australia and so there was push for use of iodised salt. Now it is mandatory for bread companies in Australia to use iodised salt (except for organic bread), so there is still no need to now add salt in iodised form to your meals. Sounded like a good scapegoat I know!
Why not get into the habit of reading the nutrition panel on food products. Always aim for foods products where the sodium content is <400mg/100g. It is also a good idea to eyeball the ingredients list of the food product, salt will be listed as salt, sodium, monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking powder, baking soda, brine and sodium nitrate/nitrite.
Some tips to help reduce the salt in your diet:
- Swap margarine and butter for salt reduced margarine or try avocado
- Use salt reduced sauces and no added salt tomato paste of simply flavour foods with natural herbs and spices
- Go for unsalted options of nuts, pretzels and popcorn (avoid crisps and rice crackers)
- Choose the lower salt cheeses ricotta and cottage
- Avoid your canned vegetables, choose fresh or frozen, if canned make sure it states no added salt
- Avoid packet soups, make your own soups and use homemade stock
- Limit bacon, ham, silverside, sausages, salami, processed meats, cured, corned, canned and pickled meats and canned fish in brine, choose lean meat, chicken and canned fish in spring watter.
Data from AWASH – Australian Division of World Action on salt and health