An Australian study of primary-school children has found that children eating greater amounts of salt have a greater risk of being overweight or obese.
While kids should be aiming to eat about 4-5 grams a day, the study found the average intake was six grams - more than a teaspoon.
Dr Carley Grimes from Deakin University was the lead researcher. “We found that 70 per cent of Australian children are eating over the maximum amount of salt recommended for good health,” she said
“Such high intakes of salt are setting children up for a lifetime risk of future chronic disease such as high blood pressure and heart disease."
This week is World Salt Awareness Week, established 10 years ago to reduce salt in people's diets worldwide and improve public health.
While salt is an essential mineral for many of the body’s processes, too much of it can have detrimental effects on our cardiovascular health.
Kate Freeman, HRI Nutritionist, explains why cutting back our salt intake is so important.
“Sodium draws water towards it and therefore high levels of sodium in our bloodstream draw more fluid into our bloodstream, increasing our blood volume.
“This increases blood pressure, putting greater strain on the heart. Over time, elevated blood pressure can weaken the heart muscles and lead to congestive heart failure.
“High blood pressure also strains our blood vessels, which in turn contributes to atherosclerosis - the precursor to heart attacks and stroke.”
So what do you do if – like most Aussies – you’ve developed a preference for salt in your food?
As Kate says, “our taste buds become accustomed to the saltiness of our regular diet and if we were to dramatically reduce the salt from our diet, food can taste bland. Interestingly, we can train our taste buds to become accustomed to lower levels of salt by slowly reducing our salt intake over time."
So how do we start cutting back?
Here are 7 tips for reducing your salt intake:
- Start reducing your preference for salt by avoiding adding salt to meals when cooking.
- Enhance the flavour of your meals with natural flavour-enhancers including onion, garlic, ginger, chili, celery, fresh or dried herbs and spices.
- Make your own baked goods such as biscuits and slices, rather than buying pre-made ones.
- Reduce the amount of processed food on your shopping list.
- Make your own pasta sauces from scratch.
- Swap to reduced salt sauces and use balsamic vinegar and olive oil to dress salads.
- Drain and rinse canned products such as chickpeas, beans, corn kernels, etc.
If you have a family history of high blood pressure or heart disease, make sure you talk to your doctor about the best approach for you. Your doctor might advise you to lose weight, exercise, change your eating habits, or some combination of the above.