Salt, also known as sodium chloride is an important element essential for health. In fact, every cell in your body needs salt to function. Effects of too little salt includes confusion, inability to concentrate and can even be potentially fatal.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has set an ‘Adequate Intake’ of 460–920 mg of sodium chloride per day. This corresponds to 1.15–2.3 grams of salt (Sodium in grams x 2.5 = Salt in grams). Most Australian adults have a daily salt intake of about 10 grams which is many times the maximum value of the Adequate Intake range. A ‘Suggested Dietary Target’ of 4 grams of salt has been set for Australian adults. This is about half the average Australian adult’s current salt intake.
You might think that just because you don't add salt to anything you cook at home therefore you are in the safe zone. You might still be having high salt intake unknowingly simply because salt is in so many products that people consume daily. According to Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health, 75% of the salt we eat comes from processed foods, such as bread, breakfast cereals and sauces. In fact, some takeaway meals contain double the amount of salt an adult is recommended to consume in a day.
Some examples include:
1. White Bread - 2 slices = 280mg of sodium (700mg salt)
2. Ketchup - 1 teaspoon = 150mg of sodium (375mg salt)
3. Packaged Oven Roasted Turkey - 60g = 670mg of sodium (1.7g salt)
4. Jarred Spaghetti Sauce - 1 cup = 1000mg of sodium (2.5g salt)
5. Corn Flakes - 100g = up to 1.8g salt
Shockingly, a Great Britain study published in 2007 showed salt was associated with raising blood pressure in children (1), According to the study, the average salt intake for 4 years old children was about 4.7g/day and by age 18, average salt intake was about 6.8g/day. There was a significant association of salt intake with systolic blood pressure. An increase of 1 g/day in salt intake was related to an increase of 0.4 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure.
It is therefore extremely important to control your salt intake (not just by not adding salt to your meals) and be vigilant about food contents listed by manufacturers. It is important to note that most manufacturers will list the food's sodium content and you will have to do the simple calculation shown above to convert sodium levels to salt levels.
1: He FJ, Marrero NM, Macgregor GA. Salt and blood pressure in children and adolescents. J Hum Hypertens. 2008 Jan;22(1):4-11. Epub 2007 Sep 6. PubMed PMID: 17823599.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research