Research shows too much salt in your diet can increase your blood pressure levels and therefore increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Salt is a nutrient with the name Sodium Chloride. It is the sodium part of salt that causes the problem. Sodium is also found in other forms, for example in baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) for making bread and in a product for curing meats (sodium nitrite/nitrate).
The government says we should limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams, and that people at high risk of health problems from salt should make 1,500 milligrams their limit. Who’s at high risk? Nearly 70 percent of adults! The high-risk group includes people who are over age 40, people who have high blood pressure or slightly elevated blood pressure, people who have diabetes.
If we get used to eating high-salt diets in childhood, it can be harder to cut back later on. That’s why it’s a smart choice for everyone to make 1,500 milligrams their daily sodium budget.
About 70% of the salt we eat comes from processed foods, fast food, canteen and restaurant food. About 20% is added at home in cooking or at the table. And only 15% occurs naturally in food.
Some of the foods we eat regularly, for example soups, some cereals, bacon and sausages, have the same levels of sodium as seawater, yes, seawater! One cup of soup has the same amount of salt as two cups of seawater, and one bowl of some cereals contains the same amount of salt as one cup of seawater.
That’s why, not only do we need to use less salt at home, we also need eat and buy more fresh foods – and cut out the snack and processed foods.
Eight ways to reduce salt
- Get fresh. Most processed foods are high in sodium. Choose fresh foods and season them with herbs, spices, and citrus—not salt.
- Scan the label. Look for canned, boxed, frozen, and prepared foods with less than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving.
- Downsize your portions. A good rule of thumb is that the more calories a meal has, the more sodium it has. So skip the supersize. Share a dish and you can cut your salt by half.
- Seek low-salt options when dining out. Check restaurant websites for sodium info. Ask the server for dishes that use salt sparingly. Use a light hand on salty condiments.
- Call for action. Food makers and restaurants listen to consumers. If more people ask them to slash the salt, they will. Call, e-mail, text, or just ask to speak to the chef.
- Get out of the habit of having high salt foods at home. The only way to do that is stop putting them in to your shopping basket, try it this week. Just say No.
- Do not add any salt to food made for babies or children. Children should eat less salt than adults and these eight steps will also help you reduce the amount of salt your children eat.
- Having regular family meals together will help encourage you and your children to eat more fresh foods and home-cooked meals. Have a look at our kid approved recipes and expert tips for reducing the drama of mealtimes.
The information does not mention brand names, nor does it endorse any particular products. Ask for advice from your physician regarding any questions you have regarding following a low sodium diet.
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