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Avoiding sneaky salt

Salt Shaker
Posted by: Julie Meek
Tags: Nutrition, health

As a nation, our love for reality TV shows – including those that involve cooking and celebrity chefs – is ever growing. Amidst all the competition and fanfare, have you noticed that these chefs and their charges are very liberal with adding salt to their dishes? A ‘pinch’ of salt is often more like a handful.

So what?

The problem here of course, is that you and I get the impression that throwing salt on everything is perfectly fine. Salt can add a particular flavour to food but frequent and excessive use can certainly have a negative impact on blood pressure, especially for those with existing high blood pressure.

Your taste buds get used to the taste of salt, meaning food without it seems flavourless. So many everyday foods that we eat already have salt added, including common foods such as cereal, bread and cheese.

Technically, salt is a chemical compound of sodium and chlorine and is called sodium chloride. Rock and sea salt are almost entirely sodium chloride with only traces of other minerals.

Iodised salt is intended as a supplement for people whose diet is deficient in iodine. This is important because adequate iodine is essential for the brain development of unborn babies, infants and young children. Iodine is only found in small quantities in food and iodised salt is the richest source available.

Iodine aside, all types of salt whether they be rock, pink or from the very depths of the Dead Sea, all contain the same quantity of sodium chloride and are therefore all equal in terms of the quantity of salt they contain.

What’s the problem with eating too much salt?

Research has shown that too much salt is linked to high blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension occurs when blood vessels harden leading to a build-up of pressure. It increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke and can lead to problems in other parts of the body such as the eyes and kidneys.

To reduce your intake of salt and start tasting the real flavor of your food try the following:

  • Don’t add salt to cooking. Use herbs and spices instead to add more flavour to food.
  • Be mindful that stock (both liquid and powder) and many sauces and gravies are high in salt, so minimize the use of these in cooking.
  • Choose low or reduced salt products in the supermarket.
  • Enjoy a diet rich in fruit and vegetables as they are naturally very low in salt.
  • Choose fresh, rather than packaged meats. Fresh meat, chicken, pork and lamb contain natural sodium but much less than packaged varieties such as ham, bacon and other processed sandwich meats.
  • Look out for products that don’t necessarily taste salty but have a significant salt content, cereal being a perfect example.
  • Be careful of making salty choices in cafés and restaurants. Salt is not something that is usually listed or highlighted, but you can ask the waiter or waitress to serve a dish without added salt.
  • Take-away and snack foods are often extremely high in salt, so its best to limit your consumption of these.

For more information on salt, The Food File by Healthy Choices Healthy Futures is a great place to start.

To help you make a better choice at the supermarket, LiveLighter has a wallet card with info on selecting low salt foods.

Until next time...
Julie :)

 

Julie Meek

About Julie Meek

Accredited practising dietitian, performance specialist, speaker

View all posts by Julie Meek

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