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Reducing Salt in our Diet

Salt and weight loss

When we are overweight, we are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.

To make matters worse, many of us over consume salt (sodium) in our diet which intensifies the problem.

This article discusses why an excessive level of salt in our diet is dangerous and provides some tips for reducing it in our diets.

What is Sodium?

Sodium, which is contained in table and other salts, is a mineral needed by the human body to regulate fluid balance, contract muscles and conduct nerve impulses.

How much Sodium do we need?

According to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia , the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for sodium for adults is between 920 and 2,300mg per day.

That equals approximately 6 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of table salt a day.

It is estimated that on average, Australians eat twice as much as this on a daily basis.

The dangers of excessive sodium

In addition to contributing to high blood pressure, excessive consumption of sodium has also been linked to:

  • Heart failure
  • Kidney problems and kidney stones
  • Stroke
  • Gastric cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Liver disease
  • Fluid retention
  • Certain types of asthma

But I don't add that much salt to my cooking or meals

That may be very true for the vast majority of us.

But what many of us don't realize is that most of the sodium in our diet comes from the processed foods that we eat, not the table salt that we add to our cooking and meals.

In fact, this is where most of the sodium in our diet comes from:

  • 75 per cent from processed foods
  • 15 per cent from use at the table and in cooking
  • 10 per cent (or less) from fruit, vegetables and meat

Tips for Reducing Salt and Sodium in our diets

Here are a range of tips that you can use every day to reduce the salt and sodium intake of your diet. For your convenience, we've categorized these tips by the major sources of sodium in our diets.

Processed Foods

Processed foods that you wouldn't think contain much sodium can contain lots.

Of course, one very effective way to reduce our overall sodium intake is to reduce the amount of processed foods we eat, either by:

  • Reducing our portion sizes
  • Eating some foods less often, or
  • Eliminating some foods from our diets altogether

Another thing we can all do is become more aware of the salt and sodium contained in the foods we eat. To do this we should all start reading food labels more carefully and looking up the sodium content of foods we eat in the Nutritional Food Tables available free on this website.

To help you, here are some processed foods to take special note of:

  • Bread
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Frozen dinners
  • Pizza
  • Packaged mixes
  • Canned soups and broths
  • Salad dressings
  • Potato chips
  • Salted nuts
  • Savoury biscuits, pies and other baked goods
  • Food in brine
  • Cheese and salted butter
  • Cakes, puddings and deserts
  • Sauces and pickles

For some products that are very high in sodium, low or reduced salt/sodium versions are available. If your supermarket doesn't seem to stock many of these, ask the manager to start offering more low-sodium foods.

Also be aware that foods that contain MSG or baking soda are also likely to be very high in sodium.

Cooking and at the table

While most of our salt and sodium intake comes from processed foods, many of us can reduce the amount of salt we use while cooking and at the dinner table.

Here are some ways to do it:

  • Use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends in cooking and at the table
  • Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt
  • Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes, which usually have added salt
  • At the table, reduce the amount a little each day until none is used
  • Cook with low-salt ingredients
  • Taste your food before adding salt
  • Get a salt shaker with smaller holes
  • Balance high sodium foods with low sodium foods
  • Consider salt substitutes (ask your doctor first)
  • Buy a low-salt cookbook

Try these flavorings, spices, and herbs when cooking your favourite dishes:

  • With Beef try bay leaves, marjoram, nutmeg, onion, pepper, sage or thyme
  • With Lamb try curry powder, garlic, rosemary or mint
  • With Pork try garlic, onion, sage, pepper or oregano
  • With Veal try bay leaves, curry powder, ginger, marjoram or oregano
  • With Chicken try ginger, marjoram, oregano, paprika, rosemary, sage or tarragon
  • With Fish try curry powder, dill, dry mustard, lemon juice, marjoram or paprika
  • With Carrots use cinnamon, marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary or sage
  • With Corn use cumin, curry powder, onion, paprika or parsley
  • With Peas try ginger, marjoram, onion, parsley or sage
  • With Potatoes use dill, garlic, onion, paprika, parsley or sage
  • On Tomatoes try basil, bay leaves, dill, marjoram, onion, oregano or parsley

What about eating out?

Here are some tips to help you reduce salt when eating away from home:

  • Choose low sodium menu items and ask the chef to prepare your meal without salt or MSG
  • Use pepper instead of salt to season your meal
  • When booking your table ask if they serve meals without any salt
  • Request that your salad has no olives or cheese
  • Request a salt-free meal when booking airline tickets, etc

Fruit, vegetables and meat

While fruits, vegetables and meats typically aren't major sources of excess salt and sodium, here are some tips to help reduce our intake from them:

  • Buy fresh or plain frozen instead of canned vegetables
  • Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed types
  • Rinse canned foods, such as tuna, to remove some sodium
  • Limit smoked, cured, or processed beef, pork, or poultry
  • Snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, which are low in sodium


When we are overweight, we are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.

To make matters worse, many of us over consume salt and sodium in our diet which intensifies the problem.

This article discussed why an excessive level of salt and sodium in our diet is dangerous and provided some tips for reducing them in our diets.

As with losing weight, the key to successfully lowering the salt and sodium in our diet is to do it slowly and gradually.

On average, it takes about three months for our taste buds to get used to lower levels of salt.

If we try to reduce the salt in our diet too quickly, we probably won't stick with it because our body will actually crave salt like a smoker craves nicotine.

Finally, don't trust your taste buds to tell you which foods contain salt and which don't.

Instead, always read food labels.

If you are trying to lose weight and need further help reducing the salt and sodium in your diet, make an appointment with a dietitian in your area listed in the weightloss.com.au business directory.

Good luck and thanks for visiting weightloss.com.au.

Copyright Ultimate Weightloss.

This article was written by Scott Haywood.

Scott is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.

You can follow Scott on Google+ for more interesting articles.

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