This information is brought to you by many of the Australian nutrition professionals who regularly contribute to the Nutritionists Network ('Nut-Net'), a nutrition email discussion group.
What are the current recommendations for salt intake, and how much salt are Australians actually eating?
The National Health and Medical Research Council has set an ‘Adequate Intake’ of 20–40 mmol (460–920 mg) of sodium per day. This corresponds to 1.15–2.3 grams of salt. Most Australian adults have a daily salt intake of about 10 grams, i.e. many times the maximum value of the Adequate Intake range. A ‘Suggested Dietary Target’ of 1600 mg of sodium (equivalent to about 4 grams of salt) has been set for Australian adults. This is about half the average Australian adult’s current salt intake.
I’ve heard that eating too much salt can be harmful, but I thought that the kidneys simply excrete excess salt. If my kidneys are functioning normally, can I eat as much salt as I like?
Does hypertension have other causes aside from eating too much salt?
Is there any reason to avoid salt when my blood pressure is normal?
Why do we like salt if it is harmful?
The taste buds can be ‘trained’ to become accustomed to a wide range of salt levels in food. Historically, the populations of western nations developed a taste for salt over many centuries when salting was one of the few ways in which foods could be preserved. Because people in western nations became habituated to the taste of very salty foods, most people now prefer the salty taste, even though it is entirely unnatural for humans (or any other mammals) to maintain a diet that is high in salt. The unavoidable trade-off of salt preservation is that palates adapted to high concentrations of salt require salt as a condiment, due to the fact that unsalted foods seem tasteless to those who have developed a liking for a very salty taste. Extricating ourselves from the disastrous health consequences of this dilemma is a major public health challenge of the 21st century.
Why do virtually all professional chefs and caterers agree that salt is essential for good cuisine?
What sort of food is low enough in salt to comply with the dietary guidelines?
The Australian dietary guideline for salt is simply to choose foods low in salt. Processed foods are the big problem when trying to adhere to the salt guideline because most processed foods have salt added to them. Look for ‘low-salt’ or ‘no added salt’ on the label of processed products.
When my diet is low in salt I would like to be able to prove it. Can my doctor do this with a blood test?
Do low-salt foods provide enough salt to meet the needs of the growing child?
If salt is bad for humans, why do some animals trek vast distances for a salt lick?
Can you give me ten easy steps to a healthier salt intake?
- Start the day with no-added-salt porridge or a low-salt cereal, with or without low-fat yoghurt (stewed fruit or rhubarb can be added to enhance flavour).
- Snack on fruit, dried fruit and nuts (unsalted).
- Remove most of the processed foods from your shopping list and buy mostly fresh foods, especially fruit and vegetables.
- Dress salads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar without adding salt or salty dressings.
- Remove salt shakers from the table and the kitchen, including salt in all its guises—sea salt, garlic salt, onion salt, and all the expensive gourmet salts of various colours.
- If you need supplementary iodine, using ‘iodised salt’ (salt that has been supplemented with iodine) is not appropriate. There are many other sources of iodine to help you meet your iodine requirements; these can be recommended by your pharmacist.
- Cook food to conserve flavour using methods such as steaming, roasting, baking, stir-frying, microwaving or barbecuing. Boiling foods can result in loss of potassium and flavour into the boiling water; this may entice you to add salt after cooking.
- If fresh vegetables, meat, poultry, eggs and fish need more flavour, use your favourite herbs, spices and vinegars, not salt, to create the flavour you desire.
- Read the Nutrition Information Panel on processed products and select only low-salt processed foods—that is, those with a sodium content no higher than 120 mg/100 g.
- Buy wholemeal or whole-grain bread from small bakers or specialty bread shops that cater for discriminating customers. Some low-salt breads are also available in some supermarkets. You can also make your own bread (perhaps with added iodine) in a breadmaker.
Please see the attachments below for more detailed information about the salt and hypertension.
|Salt and Hypertension_Printable Short Summary.pdf||123.37 KB|
|Salt and Hypertension_Printable Detailed Summary.pdf||139.25 KB|