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Salt Awareness Week: SA’s saltiest foods revealed

Choose non-processed meats and rather go for whole real meat pieces preferably cooked at home. Picture: Supplied

Choose non-processed meats and rather go for whole real meat pieces preferably cooked at home. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 11, 2021


It’s Salt Awareness Week (March 11 - 17) and it’s the perfect time to learn more about salt.

This year’s theme is “More Flavour, Less Salt”.

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This week reminds us that less is more and that it’s good to indulge in some pleasures in moderation.

The health benefits are obvious. We have to add less salt to our meals, as a high-salt intake raises blood pressure and increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (heart attacks).

There is also an association with other poor health issues ranging from obesity, kidney disease and osteoporosis, to name a few.

I have always asked myself how much salt should we be consuming exactly? And speaking to International Health and Wellness expert Maria Ascencao she said that most resources advise against consuming too much salt as it may lead to major health problems.

However, studies show that the body needs salt to function.

“The World Health Organization recommends salt intake should be limited to no more than 5g per person per day. Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is a combination of sodium and chloride and is naturally found in foods like beets, celery, spinach, meat and carrots.

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“It can be used to add flavour to food and is also used to preserve food. The American Heart Association reports that around 75% of sodium is hidden in packaged, canned or processed foods while the Heart Foundation in SA has found that South Africans are consuming more than double the recommended amount”, said Ascencao.

In celebration, dietitians from Mbali Mapholi Inc – Mbali Mapholi and Yuri Bhaga – have shared below a list of the saltiest foods in SA with some easy and delicious salt swapping tips.

Soup powder dry: 3 500mg Na per 100g

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These pack a lot of sodium. To help reduce your sodium intake you can use healthier thickening alternatives. Add potatoes to thicken your stews or make your own thickener (whisk a teaspoon of flour in a little cold water to make a slurry mixture, then stir this into the stew as it is cooking).

Savoury powders with instant noodles, dry: 800mg Na per 100g

Choose to flavour your packet of instant noodles differently instead of using dry powder. Mix in stir-fry vegetables or pieces of meat, paprika, herbs and ¼ teaspoon salt.

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Store-bought popcorn: 700mg Na per 100g

Make your own home-made popcorn and play around with seasoning plus reduce added salt. Homemade popcorn recipe: Add 2 tablespoons cooking oil into the pot over low-medium heat. When hot, add ½ cup corn kernels, put a lid on and remove from the heat when the popping slows down. Add ½ salt or any seasoning.

Processed meats

Choose non-processed meats and rather go for whole real meat pieces preferably cooked at home. You can choose healthier alternatives such as canned tuna, roast beef, roast chicken, egg filling.

Nuts and trail mix often have added salt.

To reduce your total sodium intake, when buying choose plain and unsalted versions instead.

Potato crisps and savoury snacks: at least 550mg per 100mg

Consume occasionally. If you enjoy a crispy snack on a regular basis, look for the low salt or sodium alternative. Or try changing it by trying different food items such as wholegrain crackers, seed crackers, rice cakes, homemade baked potato wedges, (homemade) popcorn, or no salt or lightly salted pretzels. These often pair well with fresh cut-up veggies.

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