Sodium is a mineral compound often found in sodium chloride, otherwise known as salt. Salt is naturally found in small amounts in fruit, vegetables, meat and water. Salt is required by the human body to maintain nerve and muscle function, and regulate fluid balance1, 2.
Role of salt in health
The amount of salt found naturally in foods is sufficient to meet nutritional requirements. Salt is often added to foods in processing and excessive sodium in the body can contribute health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure), excessive fluid retention, heart disease and kidney disease. To maintain health and wellbeing it is recommended to avoid excessive salt intake1, 2.
Tips for reducing salt intake
Choose foods that are no-added salt, low-salt, unsalted or reduced salt where available e.g. bread, margarine and canned foods.
Limit eating foods high in salt e.g. potato chips/crisps, salted nuts, commercial sauces, processed meats, take-away meals.
Use smaller amounts of sauces e.g. soy sauces in stir-fries.
Choose unsalted nuts.
Use reduced-salt stock powder.
Make your own sauces e.g. salad dressing with balsamic vinegar.
Use fresh meat, chicken and fish instead of processed meats.
Eat fresh foods instead of processed, and prepare meals with unprocessed ingredients e.g. fresh meat, chicken, fish with vegetables
Food sources of salt
For some people, reducing intake of foods high in salt can be difficult, and foods low in salt can taste bland to begin with. Over time our taste buds acquire a preference for the flavour of salt. Hence it can take time for taste buds to adjust to a reduced salt diet. Give yourself time, and after 6 weeks you should be able to enjoy the natural flavour of foods without the added salt3!
Ideas for flavour with no salt added4
- Use fresh, dried or frozen herbs to add flavour to meals e.g. basil, oregano, tarragon, parsley, coriander, mint.
- Use spices in cooking e.g. pepper, cumin, curry powder, cumin, ginger.
- Use lemongrass, coriander and sesame oil in place of soy sauce as it is high in salt.
- Add a dash of wine to stews and casseroles
- Add lemon juice and vinegar to steamed vegetables
- Marinade meat before cooking. Good combinations include:
- Chicken/pork – honey, ginger, garlic, olive oil
- Chicken kebabs – paprika, garlic, lemon juice, vegetable oil
- Lamb/fish – ginger, coriander, lime zest, juice
- Fish – dill, olive oil, lemon juice
- Beef – black pepper, chilli, vegetable oil
For more flavor ideas to replace salt see the World Action on Salt.
For more information on salt and reducing sodium intake please see the following links:
Borushek, A 2011, Calorie Fat & Carbohydrate Counter, Family Health Publications, WA
The Diabetes Centre, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital 2010, Salt, viewed 18 March 2013
Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH), Healthy Eating: A Guide to lowering your salt and saturated fat intake, viewed 18 March 2013
The Dietitians Association of Australia, Salt, viewed 6 May 2013