Did you know that a high salt intake can lead to high blood pressure?  

The chemical name for salt is sodium chloride.  Some sodium is needed to help maintain the right balance of fluid in and around your cells. However, the more sodium you eat, the more water your body retains to dilute it. Blood volume increases and blood pressure rises. Some people will be more susceptible than others.

High blood pressure increases the risk of other health problems such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Medications can help, but you may be able to reduce the amount of medication needed, or lower your blood pressure just by limiting the sodium you eat in food.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no need for most people to increase salt intake in hot weather or before/during/after exercise. The salt lost through perspiration is minimal when eating a low salt diet. Ultra-endurance athletes might become salt depleted, and are at risk of over diluting their body sodium if they drink plain water. A sports drink containing salt and electrolytes is best for these people.

Most Australians consume far more salt than the body needs, and should try to reduce salt intake. A moderate sodium intake is less than 2300mg of sodium per day, but many people may need to reduce intake to below 1500mg per day to achieve a significant drop in their blood pressure.

Note: If you are planning to significantly reduce your salt intake it is important that you discuss this with your doctor as some of your medications may need to be adjusted.

Salt substitutes

Vegetable salt, rock salt, sea salt, garlic salt and celery salt all contain sodium and are not a suitable substitute for salt. Salt substitutes usually contain potassium chloride and use of these may not be suitable if you are on certain fluid medications.

Salt in foods

Salt is often listed under a different name - check for the following on food labels:

table/rock/sea salt
vegetable salt
stock cubes
yeast extracts
seasoning
booster
sodium chloride
monosodium glutamate (MSG) (621)
baking soda/powder
*sodium metabisulphite (223)
*sodium nitrate (251)
*sodium benzoate (211)
*sodium sorbate (201)
*used as food preservatives

Reading labels to reduce salt intake

When you stop using salt in cooking and at the table you only reduce your salt intake by about 15%. Processed foods provide about 75% of your daily salt intake, so to really reduce your salt intake you need to look at the products you choose.

A high salt food has more than
400mg sodium per 100g.

A moderate salt food has
120 - 400mg sodium per 100g.

A low salt food has less than
120mg per 100g.

Be wary of some 'natural' salts which might list the sodium in grams (g), not milligrams (mg). 1g = 1000mg!

Reducing salt intake

Eat more fresh food, cut down the salt you add by half and reduce even more over time.  Use herbs and spices to boost flavour.

Have a look at these websites for more ideas:

www.saltmatters.org/site
www.awash.org.au

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