South Africans face serious health risks such heart disease as their daily sodium intake is higher than it should be.
Top 5 saltiest foods
A new US study revealed the top five saltiest foods in the average diet:
- Cold cuts and cured meats
Surprisingly, potato chips, pretzels and other obviously salty snacks didn't make it into the top five, though they did ring in at number seven.
"Most Americans are consuming too much salt and it's coming from a lot of commonly consumed foods – about 25 foods contribute the majority of salt," said researcher Zerleen Quader. She's an analyst from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Knowing which foods contribute the most salt is important for reducing your salt intake, she said.
The report was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Several slices a day
Sodium is an essential mineral that helps the body maintain fluid balance, according to the American Heart Association. But, too much in the diet increases the risk for high blood pressure, which in turn boosts the risk for heart attack and stroke. Table salt contains about 40% sodium. One teaspoon of table salt has 2 300mg of sodium, which is the maximum amount recommended by health experts.
All that salt doesn't come from the salt shaker. Most comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods, the report said.
Many of these foods contain moderate amounts of salt, but are eaten all day long, Quader said. It's not necessarily that foods such as bread are high in salt, but eating several slices a day quickly adds to the total amount of salt you consume.
Watch what you eat
One way to reduce salt is to pay attention to food labels when shopping and choose the lowest salt option, Quader suggested.
"When cooking at home, use fresh herbs and other substitutes for salt. When eating out, you can ask for meals with lower salt," she added.
Quader said the food industry can help by lowering the amount of salt it adds to its products. Gradually reducing salt in foods can help prevent high blood pressure ("hypertension") and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and won't even be noticed by consumers, she said.
The CDC researchers found that 44% of the salt people eat comes from just 10 foods. These include bread made with yeast, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts and cured meats, soups, burritos and tacos (Mexican food), salted snacks, chicken, cheese, eggs and omelettes.
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