Eating too much salt? Cut down now

Posted on 9 September 2014

Annaret Brand, a registered dietician at Mediclinic Milnerton, helps us tackle the tricky subject of how a high-salt intake can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Salt adds flavour to food but it can be incredibly bad for you. Why is too much salt bad for you?
Around 6,3 million South Africans are living with high blood pressure, which makes us more susceptible to conditions like stroke and heart disease. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, about 80% of these cardiovascular diseases could be prevented by changing your behaviour, like reducing salt intake for example. A high-salt intake is one of the major contributors to increased blood pressure – or hypertension – which is strongly associated with heart attacks and strokes.

How much can someone consume salt per day and it still be considered ok?
The World Health Organization recommends a salt intake that’s the equivalent of 5g – or one teaspoon – of salt per day for adults.

What are your top three tips for reducing your salt intake?
Reducing your salt intake can become tricky because there are so many foods we consume on a daily basis that contain hidden salt, bread for example, which is a staple food for many people. To try and eliminate hidden salt from your diet, I’d recommend:
• Don’t add any extra salt, Aromat or salt substitutes at the table before eating.
• Avoid any processed food, which includes some meat, canned goods and fast foods.
• Start reading labels. Bread and breakfast cereals are also big contributors to your daily salt intake. When you go shopping, start reading the lists of ingredients on the boxes/packaging of your favourite foods before you pop them in the trolley.

How do you make better food choices that contain less salt, especially in fast food or processed/canned store-cupboard basics?
The salt content of processed/canned foods is high, so try to limit your use. Rather go for fresh ingredients and choose unprocessed food stuffs. Also, try to use more herbs – dried or fresh – to flavour your food instead of fancy salts, stock cubes and soup mixes.

Are there any symptoms you can spot on a daily basis that will indicate that your salt intake is too high?
There are no real symptoms, but if you’re prone to water retention in your hands and feet, a high-salt intake can definitely aggravate it.

The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Nutrition