Do you know what the recommended level is?

salt intake

I have done a lot of posts on sugar in the past, however I sometimes feel that we place so much emphasis on educating people about sugar, we tend of overlook the health implications of a high salt intake.    A review of the Scientific Evidence and Recommendations for Sodium intake for Public Policy in Ireland was recently published by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

Most Irish people are getting too much sodium from the foods they eat. Salt is the common name for sodium chloride. The sodium in salt plays a role in high blood pressure, heart disease, oedema, diabetes, osteoporosis, PMS, thyroid diseases, preclampsia and hay fever.

The average daily salt intake in Ireland is high – approximately 10g in adults. Data are lacking on salt intake in children; however, data from the UK suggest that average daily salt intake in children aged 4-6 years and 7-10 years exceeds 5g and 6g, respectively. These intakes are well in excess of physiological requirements. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 1.6g/70 mmol sodium (4g salt) per day for adults. Over 90% of the sodium in the diet is in the form of sodium chloride (salt); 1g of sodium is equivalent to 2.54g of salt.

It is estimated that about 15-20% of total dietary sodium intake is from discretionary sources (salt added in cooking and at table), 15% from naturally occurring sodium in unprocessed foods and about 65-70% from manufactured foods.  Two food groups (meat/fish, particularly processed meats and bread)  account for over 50% of salt intake from foods, with the remainder contributed by various other processed foods, including milk products, soups and sauces, spreading fats, biscuits/cakes/pastries/ confectionery and breakfast cereals.

Sodium excess is far more common in the West than sodium deficiency and may lead to:

 Heavy periods  Irritability  Headaches  Sinus and chest problems  Swollen legs  Swollen abdomen

So to recap the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for sodium is 1.6g per day for adults – which equates to 4g of salt.

A typical lunch of a ham and cheese sandwich on white bread with a bag of crisps amounts to 0.8g of sodium or 50% of the RDA….and that is before accounting for breakfast, dinner and snacks!! I believe the key to long term health is educating ourselves on the principles of good nutrition and looking for ways to  put this information into practise that fit around our daily lives.


Help2health Nutrition Tips

Ways you can reduce your salt intake

Focus on fresh foods Many foods in their original form, such as fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, milk, yoghurt and grains like rice are naturally low in sodium. Include these foods more often in meals and snacks.

Eat processed and prepared foods less often Highly processed and ready-to-eat foods tend to be higher in sodium. Eat these foods only occasionally or in smaller amounts – especially cheesy foods, such as pizza; cured meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and deli or luncheon meats; and ready-to eat foods, like canned chilli, ravioli and soups.

Cook more often at home Enjoy home-prepared foods where you are in control of how much salt is added. Use little or no salt when cooking. Even if package instructions say to add salt to the water before boiling, it is notrequired and can be omitted. When using canned vegetables with salt added, be sure to drain and rinse the vegetables to reduce the amount of salt.

Try new flavours Skip the salt and try salt-free seasoning such as herbs, spices, garlic, vinegar, black pepper or lemon juice. Make your own salt-free seasoning by combining herbs and spices.

Read food labels Read the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredients list to find packaged and canned foods lower in sodium. Compare the amount of sodium listed and select the product with the lower amount. Look for foods labelled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.”

Use caution with condiments Foods like soy sauce, ketchup, pickles, olives, salad dressing and seasoning packets are high in sodium. Try low-sodium soy sauce and ketchup. Sprinkle only a small amount from a seasoning packet, not the entire amount.

 Allow your taste buds to adjust   Like any change, it can take time for your taste buds to adapt to less salt. Foods lower in sodium may taste differently at first, but over time it’s possible to acquire a taste for foods with less salt.

Final note – Eat plenty of magnesium rich foods We need a correct balance of magnesium (and calcium) to ensure a correct sodium/potassium balance in the body.  Upset the balance of one and they are all affected. Magnesium rich foods include wholegrains, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Copyright 2016 Helen Byrne Help2health Nutrition