Salt and Your Health

Nutrition // Naomi Jaul // 26 April 2013

Wars have been fought over it, salaries have been paid with it and humans have craved it for millennia. But is salt, well, worth it’s salt? Discover the connection between salt and your health.

While our bodies need salt to function, new research suggests that too much of the white stuff could be killing us. According to research, over consumption of sodium contributed to 2.3 million deaths from heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related diseases throughout the world in 2010, representing 15 percent of all deaths due to these causes.

So why the salt tooth? Turns out, it’s not conscious consumption that’s the biggest problem— salt added at the dining table only accounts for 20 percent of our daily consumption. The remaining 80 percent comes from processed food and is added by manufacturers.

“Salt can be found in almost every processed food,” says 12WBT dietitian Georgie Moore. “From the obvious such as cheese and processed meat, through to bread, breakfast cereals, canned produce and baked goods.”

And when people exist on a diet heavy in processed, packaged food, they’re more likely to suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure). “Hypertension is a type of heart disease and can cause some serious health issues if left untreated such as stroke, heart disease—including heart attacks—and kidney disease,” says Georgie.

The impact of excess sodium on your health is one of the reasons the 12WBT recipes are completely free from added salt. Members are also encouraged to choose low-salt or no added salt sauces and products.

The worst offenders? “Believe it or not, they’re breakfast cereals, breads, packaged foods such as soups and sauces, frozen meals and canned foods like baked beans,” says Georgie. And we haven’t even got to the salt ‘n’ vinegar chips yet!

How to Cut Back Your Salt Intake

If you find yourself with an unusual yen for the salty stuff, try upping your water intake first — you could be a little dehydrated. When we sweat, we lose salt from our body, so hot days and exercise can lead to salt cravings. Try replacing those electrolytes you’ve lost with electrolyte-enriched water or coconut water. Otherwise, if you do cave in, you could see the results on the scales. Turns out, too much salt can increase fluid retention, causing temporary weight gain.

If you’re a salt fiend, don’t despair — you can overcome your cravings. Because it takes about six weeks for your taste buds to turn over, if you can last that long with a lower-salt diet you’ll nix the need. Opt for low salt foods, and ingredients, and try only adding salt at the table. “Ask yourself — does it really need it? And use iodised salt — the incidence of iodine deficiency is on the increase and iodised salt is one of the main sources of the nutrient,” says Georgie. “Just don’t be fooled by all the fancy names: sea salt, rock salt, chicken salt – they all mean salt.”

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