While our bodies need salt to function, new research suggests that too much of the white stuff could be killing us – and it’s not coming from the places you’d expect (hot chips, burgers…).
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.
Where is the salt in our diets coming from?
Turns out, it’s not conscious consumption that’s the biggest problem: salt added at the dining table only accounts for 20 per cent of our daily consumption. The remaining 80 per cent 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,” she says.
…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!
What are the health risks?
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.
You can also see the results of a diet too high in salt on the scales. It can increase fluid retention, causing temporary weight gain.
Also read: What ‘In Moderation’ Really Means
How to cut back on salt
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.
If you’re a salt fiend, don’t despair — you can overcome your cravings. It takes about six weeks for your taste buds to turn over, so 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!”
Need a hand keeping your salt in check? Sign up now to a FREE trial of 12WBT to access our calorie and salt-controlled recipes, which don’t compromise on flavour!