While sugar in our diets has been getting a lot of attention lately (as it should), we shouldn’t forget that salt can also wreak havoc with our health.
Australians are consuming double the recommended salt intake of 5g (one teaspoon), per adult per day, which can raise your blood pressure and greatly increases your chances of developing heart disease and stroke. Kids too are overdoing the salt: nearly three quarters of school children in Victoria eat more salt than the recommended amount. Children who have higher levels of salt can develop higher blood pressure and this can continue into adulthood, where it increases their risk of heart attack and stroke too.
Did you know, 75% of the salt we eat has already been added to our food before we buy it?
Most people already know that foods like chips and bacon are high in salt, but you might be surprised how much salt is in everyday foods that don’t taste salty – such as sauces, frozen meals and even bread, biscuits, and cakes. Processed foods are not just snacks like salty chips and biscuits though, they are any food that has been altered in some way (frozen, tinned, packaged) and almost all contain added salt.
Here’s what you need to know to unpack the salt in your food.
1. Read the labels:
The simplest way to work out how much salt you’re eating is to check the food label, in particular the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) and ingredients list on the package.
The best place to check is the per 100g column on the NIP. This makes it easy to compare different products.
What should you look for?
• Best Options: Up to 120mg sodium per 100g/ml
• OK Options: Up to 400mg sodium per 100g/ml
• Reconsider: More than 400mg sodium per 100g/100ml
2. Choose the right packaged food
If you are buying packaged, pick frozen over tinned. If you can’t buy fresh vegetables, frozen is your next best bet. No salt is used in the freezing process. Some tinned vegetables contain added salt in the water, called brine. If you do choose tinned, make sure you drain and rinse them well under water before use to remove excess salt.
3. Table manners
Stop adding salt to your food at the dinner table. Hide the salt shaker from your family’s table. Taste your food before you season it, and if it does need a little something extra try adding some pepper or fresh herbs instead.
4. Eat Fresh!
Load your trolley up with as much fruit and veg as you can. They are naturally low in salt and packed full of nutrients. Fresh herbs in particular, can be an easy way to add flavour without reaching for the salt.
Cutting down on salt doesn't mean you have to cut out flavour. The best way to cut down on your salt intake is to cook fresh. Try this delicious pork and ginger stir fry recipe from the Heart Foundation’s Unpack the salt website https://unpackthesalt.com.au/recipes/
200g egg noodles
½ tablespoon oil (canola)
400g pork tenderloins, cut into thin strips
3 x 3cm piece ginger, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 stem lemon grass, tough outer layer removed, thinly sliced
150g mushrooms, sliced
75g sugar snap peas
½ red capsicum, finely sliced
2 pak choi, roughly chopped
75g cashew nuts
1 tablespoon low salt soy sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon brown sugar
- Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain, rinse briefly under water to prevent sticking and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in wok or large frying pan on a high heat. Add the pork and stir fry for 5 minutes.
- Add the ginger, garlic, chilli and lemongrass and stir fry for another 1–2 minutes. Stir in the vegetables and cashew nuts and continue to stir fry for 3–5 minutes. The vegetables should be cooked but retain some ‘bite’.
- Combine the soy sauce, lemon juice and brown sugar in a separate container and mix with the stir fried vegetables.
- Finally, add the cooked noodles to the pan, mix well and serve.
Suggestions: You can use any vegetables you like; good additions are baby corn, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts.