Should you pass on the salt?
New research says a little salt – but not too much – can help avoid heart health risks.
Each day, Australian men eat twice as much salt as they should – and women aren’t doing much better.
The World Health Organisation recommends no more than 2g of salt a day – but Aussie men consume an average 10g, while for women it’s around 7g.
There are health risks associated with eating both too much and too little salt.
A new study has found that 5g of salt – around one teaspoon – seems to be the magic number.
The study of 94,000 people from 18 countries found risks of cardiovascular disease and stroke rose once people ate more than 5g of salt a day.
“Our study adds to growing evidence to suggest that, at moderate intake, sodium may have a beneficial role in cardiovascular health – but a potentially more harmful role when intake is very high or very low,” says researcher Professor Andrew Mente.
“Our bodies need essential nutrients like sodium, but the question is, how much?”
- Related story: What you need to know about heart disease in women
At moderate intake, sodium may have a beneficial role in cardiovascular health – but a potentially more harmful role when intake is very high or very low.
Risks of too much salt
Around three-quarters of the salt we eat comes from processed foods, snacks, packaged foods such as instant soups and noodles, and pre-prepared sauces, like tomato sauce and soy sauce.
High salt intake increases blood pressure, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Too much salt can also contribute to kidney problems, fluid retention, stomach cancer and osteoporosis as it increases the amount of bone-strengthening calcium excreted in urine.
Signs your diet may contain too much salt include:
- Often feeling very thirsty
- Feeling bloated and swollen because of fluid retention
- Too much protein in your urine
- Developing kidney stones
- High blood pressure
Risks of not getting enough salt
Losing too much salt from the body, or not getting enough daily salt, can also cause health issues.
Severe salt loss is rare in Western diets, but we do lose salt when we urinate, sweat or have vomiting and diarrhea.
Signs of low sodium include:
- Muscle cramps
- Feeling light headed and dizzy.
How much salt are you eating?
You can work out how much salt is in food by multiplying the amount of sodium listed on the label by 2.5.
- 1 small bowl of breakfast cereal – 140mg sodium
- 1 slice cheddar cheese – 140mg sodium
- 1 large hamburger – 880mg sodium
- 1 cup full fat milk – 93mg sodium
- One quarter of a large ham and pineapple pizza – 820mg sodium
- 1 slice white bread – 140mg sodium
- 1 cooked chicken breast – 70mg sodium
- 1 medium banana – 1mg sodium
- Half cup broccoli – 15mg sodium
Watch Zoe Bingley-Pullin uncover the ways we can keep our hearts healthy, and the surprising truths about the causes of heart disease, for House of Wellness TV.
More heart health news