It’s on every dining table, we sprinkle it on our food and it’s lurking in just about every packaged food. While it’s no news flash these tiny white crystals impact almost everything from water retention, brittle bones to blood pressure, you may be wondering how you can avoid the stuff.
You may be surprised to know, around 80% of our salt intake comes from processed foods – not the salt you add yourself. Foods like bread, cured meats, butter, canned foods and even breakfast cereals can contain a generous amount. Although manufacturers are getting better at reducing the sodium levels in foods, it pays to read the labels. Fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, unsalted nuts and fresh lean meats are naturally low in sodium and should make up the majority of your diet.
Sauces and condiments (think mustard, ready-made marinades, curry paste, soy sauce and even peanut butter) can contain whopping amounts. Again, it pays to read the fine print. Look for products that have less than 120mg/per 100g or purchase products with “reduced salt” variations wherever possible.
Sure, salt is a natural preservative and has been for eons, but using bucket loads for flavouring is a habit that must die. And by the way, chicken, celery and garlic salts are still salt! Experiment with DIY sauces, marinades, dressings or nut butters. It’s easier than you think. Use bases such as extra virgin olive oil and vinegars, mixed with fresh lemon, lime, garlic or fresh herbs and spices for an added flavour boost. Or simply blend soaked cashews and almonds for a freshly made nut paste. Try this for a few weeks and you’re taste buds will adapt to a less salty flavour.
Ever get that dehydrated-mouth feel and an urge to drink copious amount of water after a take out meal? You can thank (or blame) salt for that. While it can be difficult to know exactly how much salt is in your meal, there are a few things you can do to limit the load. Avoid large portion sizes and don’t be afraid to order sauces, gravies and dressings on the side or ask whether the food contains MSG. Choose cuisines that use less salt in their dishes like Japanese and Vietnamese compared to other cuisines that use lots of heavy sauces or salty sides such as Indian and Chinese.
Eating foods with potassium helps balance out the negative effects of salt, and lower blood pressure. Potassium-rich foods include green leafy veg, avocados, sweet potato and bananas.