Shake the salt habit

Salt is the most basic of all seasonings, however overuse can unfortunately lead to some serious health consequences.

By Donna Fleming
It’s the most basic of all seasonings, however overuse can unfortunately lead to some serious health consequences.
When you do add salt to your food, it’s a good idea to choose iodised. Iodine is an essential nutrient for thyroid function. It is also especially important if you are pregnant, as it helps your baby’s brain and nervous system to develop. Iodine deficiency can lead to a brain-damaged baby.
Our bodies need salt because it contains sodium – an essential nutrient that not only maintains blood volume, but also controls muscles and nerve function, regulates water balance and helps to maintain our body temperature.
However, too much sodium can increase blood pressure and put stress on our heart and blood vessels. It is also linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer and bone problems.
Unfortunately, many of us eat too much salt, and we get so used to it, we find it hard to cut down.
The Ministry of Health recommends around 4g of salt (which contains 1600mg of sodium) a day, with no more than 6g (or 2300mg sodium)
a day. That’s around two thirds to one teaspoon of salt.
However, it’s estimated most of us consume 3600mg a day – that’s 9g or 1½ teaspoons.
That’s the tricky part. It’s not only the salt we shake or grind onto our meals each day that we have to think about, but the salt that has already been added to our food before it gets to us. Some foods, in particular processed ones, are obviously salty – like crackers, potato chips and tinned soups.
But you may be surprised to learn that food doesn’t have to taste salty to contain large amounts – one of the biggest sources of “hidden” salt is, in fact, bread. Other main sources of dietary sodium include:
• Processed meats (bacon, ham, sausages, corned beef, etc)
• Meat pies
• Pizza
• Instant noodles
• Cheese
• Sauces
• Stocks
• Spreads
• Takeaway foods
• Breakfast cereals
• Check the label. Low-sodium foods contain no more than 120mg of sodium per 100g of food. Foods that are high in sodium may have as much as 600mg per 100g of food.
• Leave the salt off the table. Often, adding salt is just a habit, and we do it without thinking.
• Eat fewer processed meats, such as sausages, bacon or ham. If you want meat for sandwiches, cook extra the night before and use leftovers. Or buy shredded chicken.
• As well as avoiding processed foods, cut down on sauces and salad dressings, which can be high in sodium.
• When you are cooking, try flavouring foods with herbs and spices so you don’t feel
that you have to add salt. Tasty options include garlic powder, nutmeg, cumin and lemon.

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