May 2022 1st edition

Too much salt is bad for you

While everyone needs to eat salt, eating too much of it can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease.

Joy Williams, a dietician at Western Cape Clinic Symphony Way Community Day Centre, says salt (sodium) is addictive and some people crave it.

People can also crave salt due to a sodium imbalance, stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, excessive sweating or a medical condition, she adds.

Sodium is found naturally in a variety of foods, including milk and meat. It is also found in high amounts in processed food, such as bread; processed meat and sauces.

Decrease salt intake

According to the World Health Organisation, people should eat less than five grams (just under a teaspoon) of salt a day to reduce their risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart attack.

Williams says people can reduce their salt intake by:

  • Cooking with less salt. Try to avoid using spices, soups and sauces when preparing food. Instead, use herbs, lemon, garlic, ginger, vinegar, onions and chilli to add flavour to your food. These contain less sodium and are healthier options.”
  • Removing salt from the dinner table. Avoid adding salt to your meals at the dinner table. This is a bad habit and can be avoided if it is out of sight.”
  • Eating less food that’s high in salt, such as processed meats and preserved or tinned food.
  • Reading food labels. Salt is displayed as sodium on food labels. Opt for foods containing less than 120mg sodium per 100g, and avoid foods containing more than 600mg sodium per 100g.

Eat a balanced diet

Williams says a balanced diet, which contains all food groups – starch, protein, fat, fruit and vegetables – is important to maintain good physical and mental health.

Eating the correct portion of each food group is also essential, she adds.

You can portion your plate according to the ‘Plate Model’ in which:

  • Half of your plate has non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber or carrots.
  • Quarter of your plate  has high fibre starches, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, sweet potato or butternut.
  • Quarter of your plate has lean protein, such as grilled skinless chicken, fish, lean mince, ostrich meat or soya.

Information supplied by the Western Cape Department of Health.

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