050820 Salt shaken 2/2 by Glenn Cardwell

050820 Salt shaken 2/2 by Glenn Cardwell

Salt on the wane

When I tell people that the most dangerous food additive they are likely to eat is salt they get really disappointed because they expect me to say an artificial sweetener or flavour, neither of which probably has any effect on their health. Salt is off the radar; no-one cares about salt.

It’s easy to tell people to stop sprinkling salt on their meals, but in reality this does little to reduce overall salt intake as 80% of the salt in the diet has been put there by food manufacturers.

At the Public Health Association of Australia annual conference recently in Canberra, we were told that the Heart Foundation’s tick program has reduced salt levels by 12% on average in foods with the tick. Kelloggs’ 12 most popular cereals have dropped their sodium by 40% on average. For example, the Cornflakes people ate in the 1980s had one and a half times more salt than the Cornflakes today. Yikes!

By 2013 all the major bread manufacturers will reduce their salt content to a maximum of 400mg/100g. This is a significant step because bread is the main salt source in many people’s diet.

Even Smiths crisps have dropped their salt by 17% and Vegemite has gradually got less and less salt over the last two decades. I’m not suggesting that bread, crisps and Vegemite are, or will become, “low salt”, just that they have a lot less salt than before. Good to see the food industry taking a step in the right direction.

Fitness tip: Question worth its salt

Alice in Canada asked about the difference between sea salt and other salts on the market, like garlic salt, rock salt and the regular salt. There are two main differences – flavour and price. You are still getting sodium chloride, which is 40% sodium and 60% chloride, with the sodium part being the concern when we get too much. Now, I know there is plenty of hype around different versions of salt, and some may have a sprinkle of other minerals (eg magnesium); just ignore the claims and have a small amount of whatever type you choose.

Glenn Cardwell, Australias own accredited practising dietitian.

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