Less salt all round

2016-07-06 06:00
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FROM 30 June South Africans are eating less salt, as new legislation to reduce salt in processed foods comes into effect.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa is concerned about the fact that South Africans eat on average double the recommended daily salt limit of five grams a day. Most of this salt does not come from what consumers add themselves, but rather from what is added during manufacturing.

Excess salt intake can raise blood pressure, thereby contributing to heart disease, strokes and kidney disease. Most salt is hidden in everyday foods. On average, four slices of bread provide 1.6 grams or a quarter teaspoon of salt per day - a third of the recommended maximum.. Even sweet breakfast cereals can bump up salt intake by another gram. Consumers can use www.saltcalculator.co.za to check.

The amendment to the foodstuff regulations was published in the Government Gazette in March 2013. A three-year implementation period was granted to allow time for manufacturers to experiment with reformulation and produce lower salt products that are still acceptable to consumers.

Foods affected include bread, breakfast cereal, margarines and butter, savoury snacks, potato crisps, processed meats, sausages, soup and gravy powders, instant noodles and stocks. Consumers add on average four grams of salt to food at home, which alone just meets the World Health Organisation's maximum limit of grams or one teaspoon per day.

Foods affected by legislation like potato crips and processed meats will still be very salty even after target levels have been met. Not forgetting takeout - a fried chicken or burger meal provides double to triple our daily intake, sometimes even more. Consumers should read food labels to compare products and demand less salty products. All foods with the Heart Mark logo have been evaluated and are lower salt options.

The following tips from Dr Ingrid van Heerden can help lower sodium intake:

• If possible don't add any table salt to foods you cook at home. Do not cover each dish you eat with a crust of salt Start the reduction process gradually, so that you and your taste buds get used to the lower salt levels. If you go from 1 teaspoon of salt per dish per day to a zero salt intake, you will find it particularly difficult to adjust to the change in taste. But if you consciously add a bit less salt to your foods every second or third day, then you will be able to educate your taste buds over a period of a few weeks to accept this change in eating habits.

• Avoid foods that have a high salt and/or sodium content due to processing.

Cured and pickled foods and relishes contain very large quantities of salt, so products like bacon, ham, processed meats, salted dried fish, anchovies, atchar, pickles, etc., are loaded with salt.

* Avoid condiments and flavouring aids that contain salt or sodium - read those labels and if you are unsure, rather avoid the use of products like stock cubes, meat extract, etc.

• Check that you are not ingesting sodium via medications or toothpaste. Medicinal products are often a “hidden” source of sodium.

• Be creative when cooking and use fresh herbs, as well as spices that don't contain salt and/or sodium (e.g. pepper, chillies, garlic, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, cardamon, etc), or lemon juice to add flavour­ to your dishes.

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