Salt awareness

Spoons of SaltBe kind to your heart and cut down on your salt intake

April 2012


The number of heart attacks in the U.S. could decline by up to 13% if adults could just slash their daily salt intake by 3 grams, or about 1,200 milligrams of sodium.  According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, research confirms that excessive salt intake is associated with high blood pressure (or hypertension), which can damage the arteries and lead to heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.

Even a reduction in daily salt intake of just 1 gram (or about 400 milligrams of sodium) would produce “large declines” in the rates of cardiovascular events, according to the study.

The South African diet is high in salt, with an average intake of 7.8 grams per day for black people, 8.5 grams per day for Coloureds and 9.8 grams per day for white people. Various international agencies including the World Health Organization recommend maximum salt intakes of between 4 and 6 grams per day.

Up to 46% of the salt consumed is added during added during preparation of food or at the table and much of the salt consumed is found in processed foods produced by the food industry.

So, become familiar with the following and be smart when you next go grocery shopping:
Low sodium - 120mg per 100g serving
Very low sodium - 40mg per 100g serving
Sodium free - 5mg per 100g serving

One of the best low-sodium food choices you can make is fresh mushrooms. They are not only delicious, affordable and versatile, fresh mushrooms are also very low in sodium.  In fact, mushrooms contain only 14mg of sodium per 100gms (falling into the bottom end of the low sodium range!) When one then considers the fact that a low salt diet allows between 400 - 1000 mg of sodium per day – the low sodium content of fresh mushrooms is even more impressive!

Mushrooms are also packed with B vitamins: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6) and folate (especially important during the early stages of pregnancy) and contain essential minerals: potassium, selenium, phosphorous and copper and small, but nutritionally important, amounts of iron.

So there are plenty reasons to add them to your meals to get that great umami flavour that replaces the desire for a salty taste!

10 tips for reducing levels of salt in your diet from WASH (World Action on Salt and Health)

  1. Read labels when shopping and choose low sodium or salt-free alternatives in pre-packaged foods.
  2. Keep snacks of fresh fruit, dried fruit or unsalted nuts at home and in the office, and in children’s lunchboxes.
  3. Limit takeaways and fast foods such as burgers, fried chicken and pizza to an occasional treat.
  4. Ask for fries with no salt.
  5. When ordering pizza, choose a vegetarian or chicken topping rather than pepperoni, bacon or extra cheese.
  6. When dining out, ask for sauces and other condiments to be served on the side rather than on the meal.
  7. Avoid ordering dishes that contain high salt ingredients such as Asian sauces, cured meats and cheeses.
  8. Don't add salt to your food at the table when dining out or eating at home.
  9. Stock up on low sodium or salt-free condiments, sauces and spreads.
  10. Replace salt in your cooking with herbs and spices.
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