Reducing Salt Intake with Dr. Michael Mol

Everyone needs to hold off on the salt shaker – why? Because the latest research shows that three million people around the world are dying every year from the consequences of excessive salt consumption. Reducing salt intake could save your life.

Why is excess salt intake a problem?

When we consume excess salt, it stays in our bloodstream. Think about eating something salty – you get thirsty right? Well your blood gets thirsty too, so it sucks up more water to try and dilute the saltiness. This in turn creates a greater volume of blood which now has to flow through the same size blood vessels, which pushes up your blood pressure causing your heart to work harder.

High Blood pressure is a really sneaky condition because it has no symptoms. In South Africa more than 1 in 3 adults live with high blood pressure and it’s responsible for one in every two strokes and two in every five heart attacks – hence it’s not so nice nickname … the silent killer!

So how much salt can we consume?

Both local and international guidelines recommend that we limit our salt consumption to 6 grams, around 1 teaspoon, each day. Are we listening? No. A recent study found that South Africans of all colours and creeds consume around a kilogram of extra salt each year! Makes me thirsty just talking about it.

How can we reduce salt intake easily?

Removing the salt from our tables is obviously a smart move, especially in South Africa, where almost half of our excess salt is added by individuals to their food, which really highlights the lack of awareness of the dangers that salt poses to health.

But the reality is, even if you aren’t shaking, grinding or pinching, chances are, you’re still eating far too much salt – you’d be surprised at how many shifty sodium bombs you eat every day. You may be avoiding the obvious ones, like salted chips and processed foods but it’s easy to overlook some of the less apparent ones. Condiments, packet soups, stock cubes, gravies, breakfast cereals and tinned foods are all bursting with salt. And the number one culprit – bread! Studies show that bread alone can contribute up to a quarter of your total salt intake.

You might need to train your taste buds

The good news is, we can retrain our tastebuds and reduce salty cravings! All it takes is three weeks of less salt and your preference for salty food will perceptibly peter out.

So aside from throwing it over our left shoulder, how do we become less salty? After playing hide and seek with your salt cellar, and seasoning your food with herbs and spices instead – unleash your inner Sherlock Holmes and give food labels a thorough investigation. Your first choice should always be fresh or frozen, but if that’s not always an option – opt for products labelled Low in Salt or sodium, No added salt or Salt-free.

Your food may taste bland at first but your taste buds are generally quick off the mark and will adapt soon enough. You may even start to wonder why everything tastes so salty!

A note from Vital’s Experts:

For all the flavour and 25% less salt, try Vital Soy Sauce 25% Less Salt.