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Friday, May 1, 2015
Daily intake caution

“We are all familiar with the notion that eating right and exercising can help improve your health. But you may be unaware that decreasing one’s daily salt intake can also has important health benefits. Many people are surprised to discover that 75% to 80% of the salt we eat is already in foods that make up a significant portion of our diet.”

This is according to Dr Stan Moloabi, executive: healthcare management at the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS).
Moloabi also points out that high salt intake is such a serious health issue that Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, introduced legislation in March 2013 to make salt reduction in the food industry compulsory. “Different products have been set different timelines, allowing food producers to devise strategies to reduce sodium in their products. According to this legislation, food manufacturers will have until June 2016 to comply with the first set of guidelines.”
However, it is important to remember that our bodies certainly need small amounts of salt to function properly. “Salt influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles, helps transmit nerve impulses and helps maintain the right balance of fluids in our bodies. Adults need approximately one gram of salt per day and children need even less,” explains Moloabi.
The daily maximum intake of salt recommended by the World Health Organisation is five grams (one teaspoon) but it is estimated that some South Africans are ingesting as much as 40 grams a day.
“In order to reduce your daily salt consumption, GEMS advises that people should pay special attention to the nutrition labels on food. If salt (also called sodium) is in the top few ingredients, then it is best to avoid that product as it means it is very high in salt,” he notes. “More than 1.5 grams per 100 grams means that that food is high in salt, whereas products that have less than 0.3 grams per 100 grams of salt are low in salt.”
Moloabi says that the following foods should be eaten in moderation as they are usually high in salt:

  • bacon
  • cheese
  • gravy
  • olives
  • ham
  • salami
  • anchovies
  • smoked meat and fish
  • salt fish
  • pickles
  • salted and dry roasted nuts
  • soy sauce
  • stock cubes

“In addition, it is wise to read the nutrition labels carefully on foods such as bread, sandwiches, chips, soup, sauces, cereals and readymade meals. This will enable you to choose the brands with the lowest salt content,” cautions Moloabi.
He gives the following further tips to cut down on salt intake:

  • When shopping, know which foods and brands are high in salt by looking at nutritional labels and obviously avoid buying them.
  • Avoid adding salt during cooking and try other flavours such as spices and herbs. Watch out for the ready mixed herbs and spices in the supermarkets as they often contain high levels of salt as well.
  • Gradually reduce the amount of salt you add while cooking and at the table over a few weeks. This will give your taste buds time to adjust.
  • When using stock cubes, choose those that are lower in salt, or consider using half a cube instead.
  • Steam vegetables to retain their colour and flavour and add a dash of lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Avoid adding too many sauces and salad dressings to food.
  • Make your own salad dressing from balsamic, cider or rice vinegars.

Note: World Salt Awareness Week was 16th – 22nd March)

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:28.5 1st May, 2015
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