Salt (sodium chloride), shown as sodium on food labels, is used to flavour foods and as a preservative. Diets high in foods preserved by salting (such as pickled vegetables and salted or dried fish) have been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer.
Eating Cantonese-style salted fish increases the risk of nasopharyngeal cancer. Eating processed meats that have been preserved by salting, curing, fermentation or smoking increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Too much salt in the diet can also lead to high blood pressure.
The body does need some sodium to work. However, in most circumstances we get all our sodium requirements naturally from foods. There is no need to add salt to foods. For overall health, it is a good idea to switch to limit the amount of salt in your diet and try flavouring foods with herbs and spices instead.
How to eat less salt
Reduce the salt you use gradually – this will help you get used to the flavour.
To add flavour to meals, use garlic, onion, chilli, lemon juice, vinegar, pepper, herbs, curry paste and spices.
Swap salty snacks like pretzels, salted nuts and potato chips for unsalted nuts or low-salt crackers.
Limit take-away foods as they are often high in salt. This has an added benefit of helping maintain a healthy body weight (which is associated with a lower risk of certain cancers). Try cooking ‘fakeaway meals’ at home.
Cut back on the amount of pre-packaged sauces, condiments and dehydrated foods such as seasoning mixes and soups that you use.
Limit your intake of processed meats, e.g. bacon and salami.
Fill the plate with fresh vegetables and legumes and snack on fruit or vegetables.
Read labels and choose products with less salt
Most of the salt we eat comes from packaged and take-away foods such as pizza, pies, sauces, condiments, seasonings, dressings, soups, margarines, bread and breakfast cereals.
Some foods that are made salty can be used sparingly such as yeast extract spreads (e.g. Vegemite or Marmite), olives, cheese and anchovies.
When shopping, read labels and choose products with less sodium. Look for “no added salt” or “low salt” foods in the supermarket. “Reduced salt” products may also be good options, check the label.
Use the nutrition information panels on food labels to compare sodium content of similar products, look at the per 100g column and choose lower sodium options. Best choices are products that are less than 120mg per 100g. Products with sodium between 120-400mg per 100g are okay sometimes.
Take a look at this easy guide to find out more information on how to read and understand a food labels.
Swap salt for salsa
A salsa is simply a sauce or topping for meat, chicken, fish, pasta, noodles, salad or bread. Try the following salsa ideas to add a real flavour boost to your meals. Simply chop ingredients finely and mix.
Thai: fresh coriander, sweet chilli sauce, and crushed unsalted peanuts.
Italian: fresh basil, fresh tomato, onion, pepper, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.