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5 clever ways to cut salt (sodium) from your diet

Chances are we’re probably consuming more salt than our bodies actually need. We take a look at a few ways to reduce everyday salt intake for better long-term health.

One small thing: Eat more whole, unprocessed foods, which are naturally low in sodium, and cut back on the sodium-laden takeaways.

How often do you reach for the salt before tasting your food? Probably more than you realise. Our bodies do need salt, but we should be consuming less than 5g a day (2 300mg of sodium). In reality our consumption is much higher because many products already contain added salt.

Salt and sodium – aren’t they the same?

Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably but they’re not actually the same. Sodium is a mineral that’s found naturally in almost all foods, while salt contains about 40% sodium and is added to foods.

The American Heart Foundation says that about 70% of the sodium we eat comes from “processed, pre-packaged and restaurant foods”. The rest of the sodium found in a typical diet occurs naturally in food or is added by us. The Foundation adds: “Those last additions only account for about 11% of our total sodium intake, so even if you never use the salt shaker, you’re probably getting too much sodium.”

So, what can you do about lowering your salt intake? Salt preference is an acquired taste that can be unlearned. In fact, it only takes six to eight weeks to get used to having less salt, and once that’s done, you’ll probably find it difficult to eat foods like potato chips because they taste way too salty.

How to reduce salt and sodium intake

If your diet is high in salt and sodium, you’re at risk of high blood pressure which, over time, can cause kidney damage and heart disease. Fortunately, there are many easy ways to cut back.

  • Choose fresh foods
    Processed foods and readymade meals are two of the greatest sources of sodium. Wherever possible, always choose fresh foods, such as fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, yoghurt and rice – these are naturally low in sodium. When you choose fresh foods, you can decide how much (or little) salt to add.
  • Get your wholegrains from sources other than bread
    Unfortunately bread is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to hidden salt – and, yes, that includes wholegrain bread too. Salt isn’t just added flavour, it’s one of the ingredients used to help dough rise. Why not skip that extra salt and swap your breakfast toast for steel-cut oats with fresh fruit.
  • Rinse and repeat
    Canned foods are another source of high sodium. Make sure you drain and thoroughly rinse the contents before adding it to a meal. You can cut up to 40% of the sodium found in canned beans by draining and rinsing.
  • Shop for low-salt foods
    When you’re shopping, get into the habit of checking food labels and choosing foods that have less than 300mg of sodium per serving. Compare different brands and opt for the one with the lowest salt content.
  • Creative cooking hacks
    Instead of using salt in cooking, get creative with your flavours. Onions, garlic, herbs (dried and fresh), spices, citrus fruits, chilli and vinegar are great ways to add flavour. Cooking methods also make a difference – grilling, braising, roasting and sautéing can help bring out the natural flavours in foods.

If you have a question for our dietitians, click here, or to find a dietitian in your area, visit adsa.org.za. To get in touch with us, email healthhotline@pnp.co.za.

References:
https://www.kidney.org/news/ekidney/june10/Salt_june10
https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet
https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/strategies-for-cutting-back-on-salt
https://www.eatright.org/-/media/files/eatrightdocuments/nnm/eatingrightwithlesssalt.pdf?la=en&hash=223306C13E176B6CE781AE5E6C51721D8A3B371B
https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/5-ways-to-use-less-salt

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/tips-for-a-lower-salt-diet/ https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/nutrition-facts-and-food-labels/is-sodium-the-same-thing-as-salt https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/difference-between-salt-sodium-8358.html https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/sodium-sources