Not sure how much salt you should be eating? You’re not alone – most Aussies are eating more than the recommended amount. According to the Heart Foundation, the recommended daily maximum is 5g (2000mg of sodium), or about a teaspoon, but most of us are eating nearly twice that much.
The bad news? A salty diet won’t just leave a bad taste in your mouth – it can also be harmful to your health. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease, and can also increase your risk of kidney disease, stroke, oedema (fluid retention) and osteoporosis.
It’s often where you least expect it
We should all be cutting back on the amount of salt we add to our meals, but surprisingly, this isn’t where most of the salt in your diet comes from. Instead, the bulk of it is hidden away in processed and packaged foods – even some that don’t taste salty.
Processed foods that are high in salt include:
- biscuits, muffins, cakes, sauces, pizza, burgers, pasta and noodle dishes
- meat, poultry and related products, including processed meats like ham, bacon and sausages
- bread, breakfast foods (breakfast cereals, English muffins, pastries and sweet breads), and other products made from cereals and grains.
Ready to ditch the salt?
Need to cut back on the white stuff? Here are five easy ways to do it:
1. Read the product labels
Okay, so we know that packaged foods can be full of salt – so reading the nutrition information on processed products is an obvious place to start. Choose low salt options with less than 120mg of sodium per 100g (moderately salted foods with less than 400mg of sodium per 100g are okay too) or look for products labelled ‘low salt’, ‘salt reduced’ or ‘no added salt’.
2. Eat more veggies and fruit
Pack your diet full of fresh and unprocessed foods, particularly veggies and fruit instead. They’re cheap, naturally low in salt and great for your heart health – and what’s more, they’re pretty delicious too!
3. Spice up your cooking
If you’re in the habit of adding salt to your cooking, here’s some good news: there are other (healthier!) ways to build flavour in your food. Try out herbs, spices and even fresh chillies – these are great replacements for your trusty salt shaker.
4. Cook at home
Food you buy out of the house (like takeaways and restaurant meals) are often high in salt. Making your own food is an easy way to monitor your salt intake – you can choose low-salt ingredients, reduce salt quantities in your recipes, and monitor how much salt you’re adding throughout the cooking process.
5. Make it a habit
If you’re used to eating a salty diet, here’s some good news: it’s possible to overcome your passion for high-salt foods. By reducing the amount of salt in your food, you’ll start to notice other flavours emerge. In fact, your tastebuds will adapt as time goes on – and in a few months, you probably won’t miss salt at all!