Feel The Pinch of Salt: A Sneaky Health Hazard
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Published by TOP4 Team
There are plenty of interesting options when it comes to choosing the salt for the kitchen and table, from hand-gathered French sea salt to pink river-salt flakes. But they all have something in common: they contain sodium, and too much of this is a bad news for our bodies.
Whether it’s rock salt, mineral salt or any other fancy salt, it’s damaging your health. Although processed foods are by far the biggest culprit when it comes to excess salt intake, everyone needs to make an effort to reduce salt - consumers need to choose lower-salt options, manufacturers need to reduce salt in meals, and chefs and restaurateurs need to use salt responsibly and not promote it as something to be relished.
Salt might taste good on your tongue, but too much can take its toll elsewhere on your body, starting with your arteries. The more salt you eat, the more your blood vessels retain water, boosting the volume of blood in your arteries. This increases blood pressure, and with it your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH).
But along with a reduced risk of heart disease, keeping the pressure down could be good for your mind. There’s growing evidence that keeping blood pressure at a healthy level from middle age onwards may help protect against dementia. As for bone density, the more salt we consume, the more calcium we excrete, and this may increase the risk of thinning bones.
So, what’s an appropriate amount of salt to eat? Ideally, just 1-2g (a quarter to half a teaspoon) daily for an adult, according to AWASH. But because that’s hard to achieve, the National Health & Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) suggests a daily target of 4g (about one level teaspoon) of salt. To maintain good health, the NH&MRC recommends a maximum daily intake of 6g salt (about one-and-a-half teaspoons or 2300mg of sodium).
How can you keep your salt intake at a healthier level? A good start is to eat more fresh food and cut down on takeaway and processed food, which are the source of 75 percent of the salt we eat.
PASS ON THE SALT
- If a dish calls for salty ingredients such olives, capers, anchovies or cheese, there’s no need to add extra salt.
- Boost the flavour of stir-fries with extra garlic, ginger, chili, mint or Thai basil. You’ll need less soy sauce or other sodium-heavy Asian sauces.
- Choose breads with less salt. Most Australian bread manufacturers have agreed to reduce the sodium in their products to 400mg per 100g or less.
While it’s obvious from the taste that food such as ham or cheese are high in salt, other types of foods - including breakfast cereal and sweet biscuits - can be unexpected sources of sodium.
The message from all this? Always check the label. Be aware of what constitutes a low-salt food (one with 120mg sodium or less per 100g) and what’s considered high in salt (600mg sodium or more per 100g). Give yourself time to adjust to fresher flavours and you’ll soon lose your taste for highly salted foods.