Salt Awareness Week 11-17 March 2013 – lower your salt intake!

Ask for ‘Less salt please’! This is the theme for this years Salt Awareness Week by the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH).

So will you ask for less salt please?

We have already placed an idea for reducing salt intake in your everyday life in our previous post but we shouldn’t just look to our home cooking, we also need to look at the foods we buy- whether they be takeaway or restaurant foods, or the ingredients we buy for cooking.

Okay, so how do you start looking for ways to reduce salt? We first of all we need to know how much salt is in food which is where the nutrition information panel (NIP) comes in handy on food packaging. All packaged foods need to have a NIP (with a few small exceptions)  and salt (sodium) is one of the nutrients that must be listed, so you can see how much is in the food.

So, how much is too much salt when looking at a food label? Well, a low salt (sodium) food is considered to have less than 120mg of sodium per 100g of the food. Now, while this sounds easy enough, less than 120mg of sodium is actually very low and it is had to find processed foods in the supermarket with amounts of sodium this low.

It is now considered acceptable to look for foods with less than 400mg of sodium per 100g of the foods- these products fit into a moderate level of sodium category. So if you are buying packaged foods- always check the column that says ‘per 100g’ and choose products with less than 400mg of sodium (ideally choose the product with less than 120mg- but we do realise that sometimes this isnt possible so aim for less than 400mg).

So what about if you are thinking that it all sounds too hard and you don’t have enough time to be comparing 5 nutrition panels when you duck into the supermarket for dinner ingredients? The Heart Foundation’s Tick program is an easy way to identify lower salt products within a food category. Now I know what a lot of you are thinking- the Tick program is only to make money and you can ‘buy’ the tick.

This simply isn’t true. It was developed as a way consumers can identify ‘healthier’ options in food categories- e.g. you can identify which stir fry sauce has lower levels of sodium in it just by looking for the tick. Yes, companies pay to have the Tick (this money goes to assessing the food) and Yes it doesn’t identify the only healthier products (there may be products which are just as healthy without the tick). But it was designed to be an easy option for consumers looking for a healthier choice. What is also important is to know that just because a product has a Heart Foundation Tick, doesn’t mean you should eat it e.g. an apple is always a better choice than a meat pie with a Tick. But if you were choosing between meat pies, then a meat pie with a Tick may be a better option than others on the market.

Choosing lower salt (sodium) food products is not hard and it doesn’t mean that taste is compromised. You can see that by simply glancing at the per 100g column or looking out for the Heart Foundation Tick you can easily choose lower salt foods to use in cooking. But remember fresh is always best!


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