Are you in the habit a adding a little shake of salt to most of your meals? Are your meals cooked in salt? Do you often eat canned or processed food? Do you regularly eat takeaway food? Then chances are your salt intake is somewhat higher than the recommendations of the National Health and Medical Research Centre’s of 4 grams of salt a day (approximately one teaspoon). In fact according to research by Deakin University the average adult consumes around eight or nine times more sodium than they need for good health.
Timothy L. Cover and colleagues at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee USA recently showed that a diet high in salt combined with infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (which affects approximately 50% of the population) greatly increases the risk of cancer. A diet high in salt can also be bad news for blood pressure, your bones, kidneys and heart.
A small dose of salt helps to regulate the amount of fluid in the body but too much can be the cause of many health conditions, from osteoporosis to kidney stones.
There are things you can do to reduce salt in your diet
- Choose fresh vegetables over canned vegetables
- Don’t add salt to cooking and meals. Use herbs and spices to flavour foods instead.
- Keep takeaway and processed foods to a minimum, including potato chips, processed meats and pre-packaged sauces. According to the Heart Foundation, about 75% of the salt we eat comes from processed foods.
- Check the label. Foods with less than 120mg per 100grams are low in salt, while foods with more than 500mg are high in salt. White bread for example, can be high in salt, with some brands containing 506mg per 100gm. Some cheeses are also high in salt ,including cheddar and brie.
It may take a while for your taste buds to get used to less salt, but according to Nutrition Australia, taste buds are ‘flexible’ with respect to salt and they can adjust to both higher and lower salt intakes. They suggest gradually reducing salt intake over a period of several months to enable the palate to alter.