Lowering Salt: Is that a key to good health?


We owe a lot to salt. In fact, many, many years ago, it has been a source of conflict, as tribes and nations fought for access to trade in salt with and even just to survive during their travellings, because then already they realised that salt was essential to preserve foods, both vegetables and meats.   More recently, even though salt is now cheap and in abundance, it still causes conflict in the pages of medical journals, in other media sources and between “experts”.

But they do agree about one thing – we all eat far too much salt and that has a negative effect on health.  Current recommendations suggest on one teaspoon of salt (2,300 milligrams (2.3g) of sodium) a day, and two-thirds of a teaspoon (1,500 milligrams (1.5g) of sodium) for people who have high blood pressure or are at high risk of developing it.  During the past decade extensive research on the health effects of excess salt clearly points to evidence of harm.

The big challenge is how to cut back? Most of our salt comes from prepared foods, like ready-made breads and crackers, tinned and frozen foods, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, cheese and of course restaurant foods. Reducing our salt intake would mean a necessary change in how the food industry prepare the foods, and they may be reluctant. After all, salt is a cheap additive that enhances flavour, it makes meat retain water, adding weight for which we pay extra and salt also makes us thirsty, and is one reason we might buy more soft drinks. There are many food companies that have already shown that it is possible to make modest, even significant cutbacks in sodium without sacrificing taste.

Salt 101

Salt is essential for:

  • the transmission of nerve impulses and the contraction of muscles
  • maintaining a proper fluid balance in and around cells (maintaining blood pressure).

It takes very little sodium to accomplish these tasks. Too little sodium and the kidneys hold onto water (and the weight is not moving due to water retention). Too much salt, and the kidneys try toflush out the excess by making more urine, or making it saltier. For most people, the kidneys have trouble keeping up with the excess sodium and over time, the extra work and pressure can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke. But research has also shown that too much salt is even associated with stomach cancer and osteoporosis.

Sources of Salt

The top food sources of sodium based on the combination of sodium content and frequency of consumption, are

  • Pizza, white bread, cheese, hot dogs and spaghetti with meat sauce.

But you might also find it in something as seemingly unsalty as a bowl of Raisin Bran flakes that has 354 milligrams of sodium, or 24 percent of a day’s healthy allowance. The recommended portion sizes on food labels are usually smaller than what people might typically eat—so if you eat for example 15 chips instead of the serving size of 10 for example, you will be consuming about 400 milligrams of sodium, or 27 percent of your daily sodium budget.

Restaurant foods can be even worse, in part due to their larger portion sizes and the fact that one menu item may combine several high-sodium foods.

Taking Action: How to Cut Back on Salt

It’s clear that an abundance of salt in our food is a silent killer. So how do we cut back? Turning it into practice will take a concerted effort between individuals, health professionals, food companies and food service operators, and governments, but we will focus here on what YOU can do and it requires on two steps:

1.Cutting back on processed foods.

2.Choosing more fresh foods.

The second step is really important because we are so trained to reduce salt that we sometimes forget to look at the other half of the equation: getting enough potassium. Potassium is a mineral that can counteract the damaging effect of sodium.

The recommended level of intake for potassium for a healthy adult is 4,700 mg per day. Here is a list of top high-potassium foods and surprisingly banana is not the top contender.


Potassium   Content

Potato,   1 medium

952 mg

Tomatoes,   1 cup, canned

811 mg

White   beans, canned, 1/2 cup

595 mg

Sweet   potato, 1 medium

542 mg

Avocado,   1/2

507 mg

Milk,   goat’s, 1 cup

498 mg

Soybeans,   green (“edamame”), 1/2 cup

485 mg

Beets,   1 cup raw

442 mg

Apricot,   1 cup sliced

427 mg

Tomato,   1 cup sliced or chopped

427 mg

Banana,   1 medium

422 mg

Milk,   cow’s, chocolate, reduced fat, 1 cup

422 mg

Carrot,   1 cup sliced

390 mg

Corn, 1   cup whole kernels

389 mg

Navy   beans, canned, 1/2 cup

378 mg

Pinto   beans, cooked, 1/2 cup

373 mg

Lentils,   cooked, 1/2 cup

366 mg

Milk,   cow’s, 1%, 1 cup

366 mg

Mushrooms,   1 cup sliced

323 mg

Red   kidney beans, canned, 1/2 cup

304 mg

But before you reach for that potato (that might not be on your allowed food list at the moment), weight loss is still your number one goal! Your current meal plan has been carefully planned to have a balance between vitamins and minerals, such as salt and potassium, kilojoule intake and food combinations, while still achieving your weight loss. Just stick to your plan – and it all will fall into place!

How does Slender Wonder’s recommendations measure up?

World Health Organisations Daily recommended intake: 2,3 g sodium/day

Recommended Products of Slender Wonder

Sodium Content

Other products

Sodium Content

1 Ryvita

0.06 g

1 slice Albany – Bread Best of Both

0.18 g

1 Crackerbread (Original)

0.05 g

1 (85g) Woolworths Seeded Wholewheat Roll

0.4 g

1 Finn Crisp

0.01 g

16 (28g) Pringles – Salt & Vinegar Potato Crisps

0.18 g

1 Melba Toast

0.01 g

Cream-styled corn per can

0.73 g

1 Provita

0.04 g

1 Croissant

0.62 g

1 Wasabread

0.08 g

50 salted peanuts

0.15 g

Even if you double or triple the portion sizes, the starches recommended in the initial phases of Slender Wonder contain far less sodium than many other foods.

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