Excess salt consumed throughout life causes blood pressure to rise with age. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and heart attacks – two of the most common causes of death and illness in Australia.
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Salt can damage your health
While many of us analyse the fat and sugar content of our food, few of us spare a thought for the salt content and the impact it's having on our body and health.
Almost all Australian's put themselves at risk by eating too much salt.
Salt is sodium chloride. When we talk about cutting down on 'salt' we really mean cutting down on sodium.
Benefits of lowering salt
People need a very small amount of sodium to be healthy, which is present naturally in foods like seafood, meat, dairy, eggs and some vegetables. Reducing salt intake would lower blood pressure and improve health for most people.
Even people with normal blood pressure stand to gain significant long-term benefits from cutting salt from their diets.
Around 75% of the salt we eat comes from processed foods.
Many Australians are aware they shouldn't be eating too much salt and have stopped adding salt in cooking or at the table. However, common foods such as bread, cereals, processed meat and pre-prepared meals can have very high levels of 'hidden' salt.
How much salt should you eat?
|Age||Recommended upper daily limit (g salt)|
|1 – 3 yr||2.5|
|4 – 8 yr
|9 – 13 yr
|14 – 18 yr
Understanding the salt content on food labels
Salt is referred to as sodium in the nutrition information panel on product labels.
Anything with over 500mg sodium per 100g is a high salt food and should be eaten very sparingly.
Simple tips to limit your salt intake
- Eat more fresh fruit and veg and reduce reliance on processed foods
- Look for low salt (≤120mg/100g), reduced salt or no added salt options when shopping
- Avoid high salt (≥500mg/100g) foods
- Check the label of different brands and choose the one with the lowest sodium content
- Make healthy snacks convenient, e.g. have fresh fruit pre-chopped, keep low-fat yoghurt in the fridge, and healthy homemade meals in the freezer
- Limit take-aways and fast foods
- Don't add salt during cooking or at the table
- Use lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, or herbs and spices as an alternative to salt when cooking; sea salt and rock salt should also be avoided
- Aviod stock cubes, soy sauce, mustard, pickles, and mayonnaise. Instead flavour with herbs, spices, chilli, garlic, pepper, vinegar, lemon or lime juice
- Avoid salty snacks or limit salty snacks to an occasional treat
- When dining out, ask for sauces and other condiments to be served on the side rather than on the meal
- Don't be afraid to ask the staff about the salt content of meals and ask them not to salt the fries!
High, medium and low salt foods
|Foods that are high in salt – cut down on these foods|
|Anchovies||Flavoured noodles||Smoked and cured meat/fish|
|Bacon||Olives & capers||Soy, oyster and chilli sauce|
|Canned meat/fish||Pickels and gherkins||Stock cubes|
|Cheese||Salami||Take away foods|
|Foods where some brands are high in salt – check the label and choose the lowest|
|Breakfast cereals||Meat pies||Canned pasta|
|Bread||Pasta sauces||Table sauces (e.g. tomato, mustard, BBQ)|
|Butter/margerine||Cakes and pasteries||Salad dressing|
|Low salt foods – eat more of these|
|Couscous||Fresh salad items||Rice|
|Eggs||Milk||Pulses (beans, peas)|
|Fresh fish||Oats||Unsalted nuts/seeds|
|Fresh meat and poultry||Pasta||Yoghurt|
|Fruits and vegetables||Plain cottage/ricotta cheese||Plain popcorn|
Thank you to the Australian division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) for these tips. AWASH is a growing network of organisations that recognise the important health benefits that can be achieved by reducing people's salt intake. The Drop the salt! campaign is the first cohesive national salt reduction effort in Australia.
Heart Research Australia supports the Drop the salt! campaign and encourages you to be salt aware.