Eating too much salt can lead to cardiac problems, such as high blood pressure, strokes, heart ailments and kidney disease, and yet despite all the publicity about its ill effects, many people consume far more salt than they need to.
According to a study produced by the ACT Community and Health Service, many people consume 10-15 times their need for sodium, the part of salt (sodium chloride) that is of greatest concern. Those who like a good sprinkling of salt on their food may try to convince themselves and others that salt is a necessary part of the diet.
But sodium is present naturally in most foods, making the addition of salt unnecessary. A normal diet including grains, fruit and vegetables, with moderate amounts of meat (or substitute) and milk products, provides more than enough sodium for our daily needs.
Even in a hot climate, salt is unnecessary (except after prolonged heavy exercise with excessive perspiration in people not acclimatized). According to health authorities, even athletes do not require salt supplementation after exercise.
Processed foods are the real culprits when it comes to overdosing on salt. Cooking and table salt contribute only 15 to 20 percent of most people's daily salt intake: the rest comes from processed foods. That is why it is so important to check the ingredients listed on product labels. Sea salt, vegetable salt, onion and garlic salts all have the same effect on the body as regular salt.
Salty foods are popular, and it is difficult to convince many people that food actually tastes better without it. By reducing our intake gradually, we can be come accustomed to lower levels. It may take several weeks but the taste buds will eventually adapt to appreciate the natural flavors of food.
The No.1 tip for reducing sodium in take is to leave the salt shaker off the table, and to use it sparingly when cooking (or preferably not at all).
Use herbs and spices to make food tasty instead. Some suggestions: garlic, pepper, vinegar, paprika, mustard, and parsley. Limit or avoid foods which are high in salt. Some examples: ham, bacon, canned or smoked fish, pickled and canned vegetables, most sauces, salted nuts, packet soups, stock cubes, most fast foods and salty snack foods.
Many salt-free or salt-reduced products are now available, from bread and margarine to tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, cheese, soups and canned fish. Opt for those which are labelled accordingly.
If you enjoy takeaway meals, try to choose, those without added salt, and buy a vegetable and/or fruit salad to help balance the meal.