Eating too much salt over time can increase your risk of high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease.A lot of the salt we eat is hidden – sometimes we may not even know we’re eating it. Currently, Americans consume about 3,400 mg a day, but the American Heart Association recommends only 1,500 milligrams. To make matters worse, this doesn’t include salt added at the table!
There’s salt in almost every food we eat, but the amount varies a lot. 75% our salt intake comes from the processed foods we eat every day, like bread, breakfast cereals, processed meats, cheese, sauces and spreads.
One of the best ways to avoid salt is to make sure most of your diet is made up of fresh foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and meat, fish, and poultry. These are naturally low in salt. To control your salt intake, read food packaging labels. Food labels cannot claim a product is “healthy” if there is more than 480 mg of sodium per serving. Sodium can increase blood pressure since it holds excess fluid in your body, creating an added stress to your heart.
Keep in mind: ¼ teaspoon of table salt = 575 mg sodium
- Myth: Adding salt to your food is the largest contributor to overconsumption
- Fact: The largest contributor to salt consumption (75% of our intake) is processed foods
Ways to cut down on salt
- Choose herbs and spices: Rather than adding salt when you cook, use lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, or herbs and spices. Pepper, basil, lemon grass, ginger or garlic are healthy and provide a delicious flavor. Marinate fish and meat before cooking to give it more flavors. Stock cubes, soy sauce, Asian-style sauces and condiments like tomato sauce and mayonnaise can all contribute to salt intake over the day. Choose lower salt varieties where possible.
- Check the food label: Reducing your salt intake can be as easy as switching brands. Look for foods labelled 'no added salt' or 'salt reduced', and foods with the Heart Foundation Tick. Use the ‘per 100g’ column of the nutrition information panel to choose lower sodium products. It’s well worth making the switch.
- Stick to fresh food: Include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, plain meat, poultry and fish, plain unsalted nuts and legumes and lentils in your diet. Try adding healthier options to your lunch box such as boiled eggs and salad, raw vegetable sticks with a reduced salt dip and fresh fruit pieces.
- Know where your salt comes from: High levels of salt are often added to foods such as packet soups and sauces, pies, sausage rolls, sausages, processed meat, pizzas and frozen meals. So reduce the amount of these foods you eat. Try to limit takeaway and fast foods such as burgers, fried chicken and pizza.
High intakes of salt can be dangerous for the overall health and can increase the risk of heart disease. Choosing fresh foods, and lower salt versions of your favorite products all helps to lower the amount of salt you’re eating. So, make sure to follow these tips and give your heart a healthy life!