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5 salty sins – easy ways to limit sodium in your diet

Diet & Nutrition • 08 May 2017

More than six million South Africans are living with high blood pressure, making us one of the highest ranking countries in the world. Experts believe that by simply lowering our salt intake, we can drastically reduce this figure.

The average human being should eat less than a teaspoon of salt per day (and less for children). However, because we rely so heavily on processed foods and baked goods, we consume more than two teaspoons every day.

Excessive consumption of sodium leaves you at a much greater risk of developing severe health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, hypertension and kidney failure.

Staggering statistics show that more than 100 heart attacks and more than 200 strokes (cerebrovascular accidents) occur every day in South Africa, which proves that we need to take action soon.

In March we commemorate World Kidney Day (10 March) and Salt Awareness Week (16 - 22 March), both aimed at bringing awareness to the importance of using less salt.

Here are five salty sins we commit in our everyday lives, and how you can alter them to drastically lower your salt intake and to live a healthier lifestyle:

1. Adding salt to already salty foods

The sin: We all do it, we cook foods that are already loaded with sodium and add more salt to them.

The worst part is, by the time your food reaches the dinner table, almost everyone will continue to add more salt from the salt shaker. 

These habits ensure that you’ll pass your daily sodium intake by lunch time.

How to fix this: This is easy, simply put away the salt shaker. If you do this then you might not be as tempted to add more salt to your food. Also, if there’s no salt shaker on the table, then people might not add more salt to their supper or main meal. 

Hint: Your food might taste a tad bland at first, but soon your taste buds will adapt and you’ll be more likely to enjoying less salt in your food.

2. Choosing processed foods over fresh foods

The sin: Unfortunately we live in a world with quick fixes and the food we eat have become processed and filled with unnecessary amounts of sodium, preservatives and sugar.

Packaged goods like canned foods, ready meals, and snacks contain an alarming amount of sodium.

How to fix this: Be mindful when shopping. A great way to start is by avoiding foods with an excessively long shelf life. Rather opt for perishable foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Hint: Instead of purchasing your groceries once a month and therefore buying more processed foods, schedule weekly trips to the store to buy fresh goods.

3. Flavouring foods only using salt

The sin: Many people only flavour their foods with salt, pepper and sauces (which are already jam-packed with added sodium). There are many other ways of making your food taste better. Fresh and dried herbs and spices offer a variety of flavours for the palate.

How to fix this: Stock up your cupboard with a variety of herbs and spices. Read up on the different flavours and benefits of including dressing and spices to your foods. You’ll soon be impressing dinner guests with your worldly tastes and flavours.

Hint: Grow a herb garden with a range of fresh herbs like basil, mint and parsley. A herb garden not only looks beautiful, but the range of tastes and flavours will soon make you toss the salt shaker. 

4. Not reading the labels

The sin: It’s hard to believe that even though most foods at the supermarket have labels, still many people choose not to read them. It’s paramount to familiarise yourself with the contents of the food you eat. You should be aware of the amount of sugar, trans fats, nutrients and, most importantly, sodium the foods you buy contain.

How to fix this: School yourself to first check the labels or nutrition facts on grocery items before putting them into your shopping trolley. If you haven’t been doing this until now, prepare to be shocked.

Hint: Salt can be listed under many different aliases, normally sodium benzoate, disodium or monosodium glutamate (MSG).

5. Not cooking our own food

The sin: Many times you don’t feel like cooking, so you stop at your local takeaway or regular restaurant to get something to eat. This may be a quick way of getting lunch or dinner, but you don’t know all the ingredients like added salt and sugar that have been added to your meal. 

How to fix this: Limit the amount of times you get takeout or fast food every week. By cooking meals yourself, you know exactly what you put into your food.

Hint: Plan ahead! With meal planning you’ll be equipped and ready to make them yourself rather than depending on your local McDonald's or Burger King.


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