Cara Cunningham, MINDI, Community Dietitian
According to the Irish Heart foundation if everyone in Ireland reduced their salt intake by a half a teaspoon (three grams ) per day, this could potentially prevent 900 deaths per year from stroke.
It is clear we are having too much salt in our diets. Although strictly speaking you need a small amount of salt for water balance, healthy nerves, and muscles and ironically for healthy blood pressure. Most people in Ireland have hopped skipped and jumped over the recommended daily amounts and basically we eat far too much salt. This can leads to serious problems due to the link to raised blood pressure. Having high blood pressure can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Too much salt in your body can also lead to you retaining too much fluid this means you have a tendency to have ankle swelling, feeling bloated and tightness of jewellery at the end of the day. Although if you are concerned with any of these symptom it is worth checking with your GP to see if there is another cause. You may have an improvement in these issues if you cut down the amount of salt in your diet.
The difficulty with trying to take less salt it that up to 70 percent of the salt we eat is hidden in our foods, we not even be aware that we are eating them. Only about 15 percent is the salt we add at the table, although it isn’t a huge amount it will definitely make a difference to quit the shake at the table, it is a good first step.
Identical foods at the supermarket can have hugely different amounts of salt in them so it is worth looking at labels and going for the lower salt option. Often on labels salts will appear or be listed as sodium, if you wish to calculate how much salt is in a product you only need to multiply sodium by 2.5 to give you the salt content. A product will only be labelled as low salt if it contains less than 0.3g per 100gram of the food. As a guide the foods that you should cut down on are packet and tinned soups; instant noodles; ketchups and sauces; sausages and burgers and salty savoury snacks.
The other option is to cook your food from scratch that way you know just how much (or little ) salt you are using. By using other flavouring whilst making your food you can get rid of the need for salt. So don’t forget to try flavouring such as black pepper, herbs, spices, garlic and lemon juice. Try to make up your own stocks rather than resorting to stock cubes or gravy granules. With some thought you can reduce down both yours and your families salt intake, so hide that salt seller and take your magnifying glass when you are shopping a choose the lower salt options.
For more information on any of the issues discussed above or for more information on diet and nutrition, please contact Maria at; The Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster by telephone on (044 ) 9395518 or email [email protected].