Why do some people have high blood pressure? There are lots of factors including family history, smoking, lack of physical activity and trans fats. Eating too much sodium (salt) is also considered to be a big culprit in high blood pressure.
Around 40% of our salt intake comes from what we add ourselves with the salt- shaker, while 60% comes from processed and packaged foods.
We should be having no more than 1 teaspoon (that’s 5 g of salt or 2000 mg of sodium) a day, with half that amount for children. Yet many of us are eating between 2 and 4 teaspoons a day!
Just look at how much salt is in some of our favourite foods such as bread, noodles, tuna and soy sauce.
How can I reduce the amount of salt I am eating?
The best way to improve your health and cut down on salt is to increase the amount of fresh foods you eat, and decrease the amount of packaged and processed foods. This means more fruits, vegetables, root crops, fish,nuts, legumes, spices and less crisps, packaged sauces, noodles and table salt. You can still eat foods such as bread and noodles - just in healthy portion sizes, for example a maximum of one packet of noodles, using half the flavouring sachet.
How can fresh foods help?
While processed and packaged foods contain sodium (salt), fresh foods contain potassium. Potassium is a nutritious nutrient found in fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, milk, legumes and fish which works to blunt the impact sodium on our heart to blood pressure. This means lots of fresh foods are great for our heart health.
Is sea salt or rock salt healthier for me?
No. Despite a lot of health claims on the packages - salt is salt! while sea salt and rock salt may contain extra minerals, these are is such small quantities that to benefit our health we would have to eat a lot of salt - the sodium from which is far more damaging to our bodies, especially our hearts, than any possible benefit from the minerals. Possibly the most important mineral in the Pacific is Iodine, this is because in 1980s many Pacific Islanders were deficient in iodine causing symptoms such as goitre (a growth in the neck). Because of this our table salt is now fortified with iodine. This means that when choosing salt, table salt is the cheapest and best for our health,though less is best!
Our taste buds can become desensitised to the taste of salt meaning we require more and more salt to get the same taste. Over 3 weeks you can cut down your salt intake and your taste buds will adjust. Try our 6 steps to help:
Read the Pacific Salt Reduction Strategy to see how health professionals are targeting bread and roti, asian sauces, canned fish/meat, sausages, snack foods, biscuits and instant noodles to reduce salt intake. Click here.