Most of us eat far too much salt. In fact, the average South African eats roughly between 6 and 11 grams of salt per day, which reaches more than double the recommended daily limit of 5 grams by the World Health Organisation. We’ve launched an exciting new advert “Your body doesn’t want the extra salt” to encourage all South Africans to lower their salt intake. So keep an eye out for it on national TV, in newspapers, on buses and at taxi ranks throughout Heart Awareness Month in September.
Our body actually needs salt to survive, but only in small amounts. So, the problem really lies in the amount that we are eating. Eating salt in excessive amounts harms the body because it directly increases blood pressure in most people and worsens high blood pressure in those who already have the condition. This is particularly relevant to South Africa where we see a shocking 46% of women and 44% of men aged 15 and above with high blood pressure. The danger of having high blood pressure is that it significantly increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. It’s actually responsible for 1 in 2 strokes and 2 in 5 heart attacks in South Africa.
A large portion of the salt we consume comes from processed food, on average 55% of it. Then a further 40% comes from salt that we add during cooking and at the table. A mere 5% comes from salt naturally found in food. Looking at this gives us a clear idea of what we can do to ditch the extra salt and keep our bodies healthy. We’ve broken this down into 6 simple steps.
Instead of having a heavy hand with the salt shaker, try experimenting with ingredients such as lemon, onion, garlic, ginger, herbs, spices and chilli to bring out the natural flavour of food. This is a simple step to start training your taste buds to enjoy less salty food and therefore help to reduce your overall salt intake.
Ingredients that are commonly used in cooking are normally very high in salt and sodium. These often include chicken, barbeque or fish spice, gravy powder, soup powders, and stock cubes. There is nothing wrong with using these but just keep in mind that they do contain a lot of salt so try to use less of them and consider that adding more salt may not be needed. Better yet, if you use salty spices then don’t use salt at all too.
We’ve all done it, sprinkled salt over our food before even tasting it and for many people doing this has become a habit. A habit that may be very easy to break and a simple step to lowering your salt intake significantly.
An even better habit to start forming, and at the same time encouraging the whole family to slash the salt, is to completely remove the salt shaker from the dinner table. So next time dinner is ready, shake off the salt shaker!
Cook at home with fresh ingredients as much as possible instead of using processed food, which is a major source of excess salt in our diet. The main salty culprits of processed food include bread, soup or gravy powder, breakfast cereals, salty snacks like chips, processed meat like polony or viennas, hard margarine and salty sandwich spreads.
The Heart Mark was created to help you make better decisions when facing a variety of options at the supermarket. Foods that are endorsed by the Heart Mark are lower in salt, sugar, ‘bad’ saturated and trans fat, and are higher in dietary fibre compared to other similar products. Use the Heart Mark to help you find foods that are lower in salt.