What you need to know about salt

Salt has been long used to flavour and preserve our meals, but according to Australia’s leading health bodies, we’re are eating too much of it.

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council recommends one teaspoon (5g) of salt (sodium) per day for adults.

However, the average diet in Australia averages up to 8g of salt per day. Our bodies do need salt to function, but this average is too high.

In 2017, according to The Medibank Better Health Index, 15.3 per cent (%) of Australians had high blood pressure.

High blood pressure affects more than just older Australians with 41,000 people age 18-24 having high blood pressure.

In the body, salt is used to regulate and circulate blood and other fluids but eating too much can lead to high blood pressure and increased risks of stroke and heart disease.

What foods contain salt?

Many of us like to add a pinch of salt to our food, but much of our salt intake is hidden in packaged and processed foods. Some of the most common dietary contributors of salt include;

  1. Bread is major source of salt with white breads containing 0.76g (15%) of your daily salt intake in just 2 slices. When grocery shopping, look for loaves with less than 400mg of sodium per 100g.
  2. Different types of cheese have different levels of salt with haloumi and feta having some of the highest levels of salt content. Try switching to Swiss cheese, which has less salt, but still contains good protein and calcium.
  3. Many pre-packaged sauces, salad dressings and dips contain large amounts of salt. Try to buy sauces that are ‘reduced salt’ or even have a go at making your own.
  4. Sausages, salami, bacon and processed meats all contain high amounts of salt to help preserve the meat. Chicken or turkey breast are better options for your sandwiches.

 Ways to reduce salt in your diet

There are some options available to reduce the amount of salt in your diet. Try to avoid packaged and processed foods like deli meats, dips and pasta sauce – or choose a reduced salt option.

Heart Foundation Dietitian Sian Armstrong said another way to lower the salt in your diet is to reduce the amount of salt added to your cooking.

“While it might take some getting used to, your taste buds adapt to lower salt levels in just a few weeks,” Ms Armstrong said.

“Try using flavoursome herbs and spices in place of salt, and experimenting with different styles of cooking such as grilling, sautéing and roasting to bring out the natural flavours of foods.”

Do you regularly add salt to your meals?