The salt you sprinkle on your food is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of your daily intake of sodium, one of the major components of salt. Heart health authorities suggest that more than 70% of our daily intake of sodium is hidden in the packaged and prepared foods that we eat.  Eating too much sodium poses a serious risk for long term heart health.  Table salt (sodium chloride) contains approximately 40% sodium.


What does excess sodium do to your body?

While the kidneys are battling to process any excess sodium in the bloodstream, the body holds on to water to dilute the sodium. This results in an increase in the volume of blood as well as in the amount of fluid that surrounds the cells in the body.  This causes the heart to work much harder, with more pressure on the blood vessels.  The additional strain on the heart and extra pressure on the blood vessels can over time lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

Research has shown that reducing the intake of sodium can lower incidences of cardiovascular disease and death rates over the long term. The latest heart health guidelines show that normal blood pressure for adults should read 120/80 mmHg or lower.


Why use salt?

Salt has been a cheap and readily available preservative and flavour enhancer for centuries and is still widely used in the food industry today. Advances in medical science have however alerted modern man to the risks associated with a high intake of salt.  As many foods contain sodium, much of it hidden, it all adds up on a daily basis and can easily reach unhealthy high levels.

The American Heart Foundation recommends a daily intake of sodium of 1 500 mg, but no more than 2 300 mg, which equals one teaspoon of salt.


How to cut down on sodium:

Once you understand the detrimental biological processes that take place inside your body when you eat too much salt, a consciousness of salt intake should start to develop.

The first vital step to take control of your daily sodium intake necessitates reading food labels very carefully to check for sodium content. (The other hidden danger lurking on food labels is of course high sugar content.)

The second step is to gradually reduce the amount of salt that you use in or on top of your food. The gradual reduction in the intake of salt means your taste buds adapt to the taste of less salt, and over time you get used to and appreciate the natural taste of food.  Move the salt shaker from your table to the cupboard, to get rid of the habit of sprinkling salt automatically over your food with each meal.

The third step is to find alternative flavour enhancers that do not contain sodium, such as herbs, spices and seasoning. For example, use fresh garlic or garlic powder instead of garlic salt.

  • Herbs – such as basil, bay leaves, chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
  • Spices – such as caraway seeds, cinnamon, garlic powder, ginger, dry mustard, nutmeg, onion powder (not onion salt), paprika, and turmeric.
  • Seasoning – such as curry powder, vinegar and cider vinegar, garlic, and lemon juice.


The American Heart Foundation has identified six popular foods that can add high levels of sodium to your diet. Some of these you may eat several times a day, as shown in the picture below:





Simple swaps to eat less salt.  Published in August 2018 edition of the Harvard Health Letter.  Harvard Medical School.   (

6 Ways to eat less salt.  Published in Healthbeat.  Harvard Medical School. (

Health risks and disease related to salt and sodium.  Published online.  Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health.  Harvard Medical School.   (

Tips to eat less salt and sodium.  Published online December 2013 by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. USA.

Shaking the salt habit to lower high blood pressure.  Published online 2018.  American Heart Association.

How to reduce sodium.  Published online 2018.  American Heart Association.




October 2018

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