Why should I limit the salt in my food?
Is salt bad for us?
Your body only needs a small amount of salt to be healthy. Eating more salt than you need can be unhealthy as it can increase your blood pressure, which could increase your chance of having heart disease or stroke. You can keep your body healthy by starting to use less salt today.
How much salt is too much?
You shouldn’t eat more than 5 grams of salt per day. This is the same as 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of salt. This 5 g includes the salt that you add when cooking, at the table, as well as salt already found in foods that you buy. Often foods don’t look or taste salty but still contain a lot of salt, this is called hidden salt. Examples of foods with a lot of hidden salt are bread, sausages, other processed meats, stock, soup and gravy powders, hard brick margarine, breakfast cereals and even sweet treats like some biscuits. Read more on reading food labels to know how much salt your food contains.
Do we eat too much salt?
Many South Africans do eat too much salt and often we eat twice the amount of salt that we should. It can be very easy to eat too much salt when eating normal everyday foods. More than half of the salt we eat is the salt added by manufacturers during the processing of foods. The other half of the salt we eat comes from salt we add during cooking and at the table.
What is sodium?
Salt is made up of two parts – sodium and chloride. Sodium is the part of salt that can increase your blood pressure when you eat too much of it. Although we use salt at home, nutritional information on food packages often only displays the amount of sodium in foods. A teaspoon or 5 g (5 ml) of salt will contain 2 000 mg of sodium.
How do we add less salt to our food?
Start with one step at a time and reduce your salt intake gradually. Gradual changes are easier to sustain and remember that you can teach your taste buds to enjoy food with less salt.
If you add salt at the table, change this habit first by not putting the salt shaker on the table. If you added salt during cooking you don’t need to add more at the table.
Try to use less salt when you are cooking. Taste your food during cooking before you add salt, as it may not need it. If you have already added salty spices or a stock cube, you don’t need to add salt as well. Remember that ‘lemon is the new salt’ – it brings out the natural flavour of your food. Instead of adding more salt, rather add a squeeze of lemon juice.
Herbs and salt-free spices are also great sources of flavour. Try dried mixed herbs, parsley or rosemary or spices like curry powder, paprika and pepper. Ingredients like garlic, onion, ginger and chilli also add lots of flavour – without the need for more salt.
How do I choose less salty food?
Look at the information on how to read food labels. See the info in the table below to help you identify foods lower in salt.
A guide to salt in your food
Fresh, unprocessed foods have less salt than processed foods, so try to include more fresh foods in your diet. This table can be used to help you make good food choices.
Keep ½ tsp (2,5 ml) measuring spoon in your salt dish to know how much you are adding, rather than just grabbing the salt shaker.