What you need to know about salt
Salt & sodium: what’s the difference?
Salt is a mineral made up of sodium and chloride. Sodium is a chemical element that occurs in salt and many foods. Our body needs a small amount of sodium to help regulate fluid levels, but too much may cause high blood pressure and can lead to health problems.
The average Australian eats about three times more sodium than is recommended.
Aim for 1 tsp (4g) of salt a day (1600mg of sodium).
Maximum limit is 1½ tsp (6g) of salt a day (2300mg of sodium).
What is iodised salt?
Iodine helps the thyroid gland and the hormones that regulate our metabolism to work properly. You can buy iodised table salt or sea salt, which has had iodine added to it. Most bread in Australia and New Zealand (except organic and bread mixes) is required by law to use iodised instead of non-iodised salt to ensure most adults and children consume enough iodine. Seafood and dairy products are also good sources.
Himalayan vs sea salt?
That expensive pink Himalayan sea salt looks beautiful, but is it any better for you than table salt? Sea salt is produced by evaporating water from the ocean or inland lakes and is less processed than table salt, which undergoes a purification process to make it finer. Sea salt may be more ‘natural’ than table salt, but it’s no healthier and contains exactly the same amount of sodium.
Sea salt also often contains trace minerals from its water source that give it colour and flavour, such as the pink Himalayan and Murray River salts. These are often touted as having health benefits but their mineral content is too small to have any nutritional value. The bottom line: Gourmet salts add flavour and texture, but they’re no better than table salt.
Did you know? In a survey of major fast-food chains by the Australian Division of World Action on Salt & Health, three-quarters of the sandwiches and burgers contained more than half the maximum daily allowance of salt.
4 ways to cut back on salt
1. Keep it fresh
The majority of our salt intake comes from processed and packaged foods, so limit these and eat as much fresh fruit and vegies as possible. Also aim to keep fast-food and takeaways options for occasional meals.
2. Pick low-sodium options
When you buy processed or canned foods, check nutrition information panels and go for low-sodium options, with less than 120mg per 100g. Try to avoid foods with 600mg of sodium or more per 100g.
3. Check labels
Make sure you check the ingredients lists of packaged foods. Baking soda, sodium bicarbonate and monosodium glutamate (MSG), often labelled as flavour enhancer 621, are all high in sodium.
4. Don’t add it
An easy way to cut back is by not adding it to food. A study found adults who reduced their sodium intake began to prefer less salty foods. Use garlic, lemon and lime juice, and herbs and spices in place of salt.
75% of salt in our diet comes from process foods
Do you know how much salt is in these foods?
2 slices (70g) wholegrain bread = 332mg sodium
1 small bowl (40g) cornflakes = 344mg sodium
1 medium (45g) white crumpet = 451mg sodium
1 tbs soy sauce = 1380mg sodium
1 tbs fish sauce = 1949mg Sodium