How much salt do we need in our diet?

In celebration of Salt Awareness Week, we spoke to International Health and Wellness expert Maria Ascencao about ‘salt consumption’.

Salt Awareness Week is a campaign that helps raise public awareness of the damaging effect of too much salt to our health.

I have always asked myself, how much of salt should we be consuming exactly? And Ascencao says that most resources advise against consuming too much salt as it may lead to major health problems. However, studies show that the body needs salt to function.

“The World Health Organisation recommends salt intake should be limited to no more than 5g per person, per day. Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is a combination of sodium and chloride and is naturally found in foods like beets, celery, spinach, meat and carrots, can be used to add flavour to food and is also used to preserve food”

“The American Heart Association reports that around 75 percent of sodium is hidden in packaged, canned or processed foods while the Heart Foundation in SA has found that South Africans are consuming more than double the recommended amount”, she says.

Ascencao says that excess sodium may increase blood pressure as it holds excess fluid in the body which puts pressure on the blood vessels, forcing the heart to work harder.

“Too much sodium can also increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease. In South Africa, more than 1 in 3 adults live with high blood pressure, and it is responsible for 1 in every 2 strokes and 2 in every 5 heart attacks, according to the Heart Foundation in SA”, she adds.

Tips on how to reduce too much salt in your food. 

For soups, add more water.

If you have more ingredients, make more or double the recipe, then mix it with the salty batch.

Add starchy foods such as rice, barley, quinoa, pasta or couscous to your dish as these may absorb the excess sodium.

Season with additional ingredients such as ground spices and fresh herbs or try to neutralize it with strong flavours such as apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.

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