One of the silent ‘bad foods’ that doesn’t get talked about much is salt. We are all obsessed with how much sugar and the amount of calories that are in our food – but very rarely do we check the amount of salt (sodium).
High Salt intake causes high blood pressure which can elevate your risk of heart disease or heart attack one of the biggest killers in Australia for men and women. A diet rich in salt can also cause water retention, affect our kidney function and for children it can harm their future health.
By simply reducing your daily salt intake you can lower blood pressure, help prevent high blood pressure leading to a healthier heart.
The recommended intake of salt is no more than 2300mg per day – around 1 teaspoon. People with hypertension should consume no more than 1600mg of sodium a day. Remember this includes salt from all sources- the ones added during cooking, at the table as well as salt already added during food manufacturing. Salt is present even in food that doesn’t taste salty, this is especially true in packaged products where it’s used for flavouring and as a preservative.
It’s important therefore to read and compared the nutrition information panel. Try to aim for less than 450mg/100g of sodium. When you can always choose products that has low salt or no added salt with less than 120mg/100g of sodium.
Salty Savages to Avoid
Processed and deli meats: bacon, sausages, hot dogs, ham, salami
Canned soups and ready made microwaveable meals
White bread and cereals
Prepared baked goods, potato chips, salted nuts
Canned vegetables, lentils and beans: give these a rinse to get rid of the salt before using- look for no added salt or low- sodium varieties
Olives, pickles and other foods preserved in salt.
Beware of “low fat” or “low calorie” foods. These foods are usually higher in sodium to enhance the flavours that are lost when fat is reduced.
Tips to reduce your salt intake
Take the saltshaker off the table – don’t add salt to already prepared meals. It may taste bland initially, however, your taste buds will adapt over time.
Use herbs and spices like garlic, rosemary, pepper, thyme, cumin and sumac to enhance the flavour of your cooking. When you do use salt try to use a coarser salt with less sodium per tablespoon, kosher salt, Himalayan pink salt, coarse grain sea salts are good alternatives. These are also less processed and have more minerals. However, all salt, if taken in excess, will have an effect on your blood pressure.
Eat as close to the source as possible – reduce consumption of packaged food. Fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed foods are naturally low in sodium. These foods are low in calories and rich in minerals and vitamins such as potassium, which can help to counterbalance sodium’s elevating effect on blood pressure.
Dine in more – when you cook at home you’re more in charge of what goes into the food you cook. Not only so, you’ll be consuming fewer calories, refined carbs and saturated fat and saving yourself money.