Cape Town - Experts estimate that if South Africans consumed less salt, we could see up to an 11% decrease in deaths related to heart disease, each year.

With Monday marking the first day of Salt Awareness Week, the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSFSA) said South Africans were consuming too much salt.

HSFSA dietician Megan Lee said bread was the biggest contributor of salt intake in the diets of South Africans.

“Not because it’s particularly that high in salt, but rather because of how often and in what quantities many people eat bread. Other culprits include processed meat, soup and gravy powder, meat extracts and snacks like chips.”

The World Health Organisation recommends salt intake should be limited to no more than 5g per person, per day.

“South Africans are consuming on average 8.5g daily as a result of buying processed foods with hidden salt and also cooking with lots of salt and salty ingredients like barbecue spice and stock cubes, in addition to that, adding extra salt at the table.”

Lee said it was important to have a week to highlight the dangers of salt, as it was directly associated with raised blood pressure, which could lead to hypertension.

“Salt reduction is the simplest and most cost-effective way to help prevent circulatory health conditions. Achieving the limit of 5g per day could potentially prevent 1.65 million deaths worldwide from cardiovascular disease each year.”

Throughout the week, the HSFSA will be highlighting “5 simple changes that can help to achieve the global recommended limit of 5g of salt per day".

Spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics Nicole Jennings said while modern medicine could help patients manage symptoms, tackling the root cause was key.

“What tastes good to us largely drives what we eat, and if "supertasters" mask certain tastes by adding more salt, they may find it much more challenging than others to follow a low-salt diet.

She said experts estimated that limiting salt consumption could prevent 11% of deaths from heart disease a year and save the South African government in the region of R713million a year in health-care fees.

“Fresh garlic, basil, dill, oregano, lemon or red pepper flakes can be used as healthy alternatives to salt.”

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Cape Argus