Think twice before adding salt
Salt’s role in stroke will be highlighted during World Salt Awareness Week (26 March – 1 April), which will see the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) partner with the Stroke Foundation to host events and activities around the country.
Worldwide, 3 million women and 2.5 million men die from stroke each year – and stroke is the second-largest cause of death in Australia.
Salt is the major factor that raises blood pressure, and blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for stroke.
And while many Australians know this, we’re still eating more salt than is good for us, says Dr Jacqui Webster, senior project manager and food policy co-ordinator for AWASH.
‘Awareness of health in Australia is generally high, however that doesn’t always translate into the correct action,’ Jacqui says.
‘For example, whilst many people know that salt is bad for health, people are not doing enough to limit their consumption of overly salted processed foods.’
Stakeholders like the George Institute are working closely with the food industry to encourage manufacturers to remove salt from foods, she says.
‘Some good progress has been made, but more is needed. In the meantime, people need to take positive steps to improve their own health including by reducing the amount of salt they eat.’
While one of the biggest culprits is processed food, Jacqui says, we can take control of our own health by consciously cooking without salt.
‘There are many alternatives to salt that also taste good,’ she says.
‘The single most effective way to reduce your salt intake is to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, and reduce consumption of processed foods.
‘If you do need to buy processed foods, check the labels and buy the foods with the lowest salt content.
‘When cooking at home, try using lemon juice, garlic, chilli, herbs or spices instead of salt.
‘Avoid crisps and salty snacks and watch out for sauces and salad dressings – if possible make your own so you know what’s in them. Limit the number of times a week you have fast food or takeaways.’
Health professionals are encouraged to advise people that reducing salt in their diets is an essential part of a stroke preventions strategy, Jacqui says, and Salt Awareness Week is a good time to tell them: pharmacies can also host events and use materials like posters, fact sheets and leaflets to engage with their customers on the subject.
Conversations examining what customers can do to reduce their salt intakes are also useful, she says.
During Salt Awareness Week stroke seminars will be held in Sydney and Melbourne, and the George Institute will launch new research on salt levels in foods.
More tips for reducing salt in the diet include:
- Have fresh fruit pre-chopped, or keep low-fat yogurt in the fridge to make it easier to grab a healthy snack quickly.
- Include healthy options like boiled eggs, salads, raw veggie sticks and fresh fruit pieces in lunchboxes.
- Choose low salt foods of less than 120mg/100g where possible, and avoid high salt (greater than 500mg/100g) foods.
- Don’t add salt to kids’ food during cooking or at the table.
- Avoid stock cubes, soy sauce, mustard, pickles and mayonnaise where possible, or choose low salt varieties.
For more information visit www.awash.org.au
By Megan Haggan