The Heart Foundation recommends consuming less than 5g of salt (2000mg of sodium) a day which works out at about one teaspoon a day. According to research conducted by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Australians on average are consuming 5.5g each day with 80% of it coming from processed foods. If your diet is too high in salt, it can contribute to high blood pressure which can increase your risk of developing heart disease or stroke. The most common processed foods we are getting our salt from include bread, breakfast cereal and frozen meals. Even foods like cakes and biscuits contain high amounts of salt.
The human body actually only needs about 1-2g of salt each day to function and you can get this easily by eating a healthy balanced diet based on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.
High salt foods
- 1. Bread and baked goods
You might not realise it, but bread has high levels of salt. White breads are the worse offenders, containing about 0.76 grams of salt in just two slices. That works out to be 15% of your daily maximum allowance. If you add on the salt content of spreads like vegemite or butter, you’re increasing it even more. Other baked goods like croissants, doughnuts and muffins are also high in salt.
Healthier option: Check the labels on the packaging and choose products that contain less than 400mg of sodium per 100g.
- 2. Cooking sauces
While picking up a jar of pasta sauce may be a convenient option for a meal, you might not be so keen if you know how much salt is in these products. One serve of Napoli sauce can contain up to 300mg of sodium per serve which works out to be 0.75g of salt. That’s also 15% of your maximum daily intake for an adult.
Healthier option: Make sauces from scratch and create flavour by using onions, garlic and herbs. You can also try this low-salt tomato sauce recipe.
- 3. Ready-made meals
Ready-made frozen meals are a convenient option for a quick dinner but a frozen single serve lasagne can have as much as 968mg of sodium which works out at 2.42g of salt. That’s nearly half of your daily maximum intake.
Healthier option: It’s best to cook your own lasagne from scratch. You can try cooking it on the weekend and then storing portions for later in the week.
- 4. Processed meats
You may already know that bacon is high in salt, but other processed meats like sausages and ham also contains high amounts of salt. One serve of bacon has 588mg of sodium (on average) which works out to 1.47g of salt or one third of your daily maximum intake.
Healthier option: It’s best to completely avoid processed meats altogether in your diet. In fact, the World Health Organisation states that processed meats cause colorectal cancer.
- 5. Dips and crackers
While dips and crackers taste amazing, they’re often very high in salt. On average, a standard dip can have as much as 143mg of sodium which works out at 0.36g of salt per 30g serve. That works out at about 7% of your daily maximum intake.
Healthier option: Look for low-salt dips on the market. If you have spare time, it’s also a good idea to try to make them from scratch if you can. You can try replacing crackers with vegetable sticks like carrots or celery. Or try unseasoned rice cakes.
Ways to eat less salt
One way to cut down how much salt you’re eating is to always read the labels of foods before you buy and choose only foods that are low in salt.
If you can’t buy fresh vegetables or fruits, the next best option is to buy frozen. Most of the time salt is not used in the freezing process but it’s often used in tinned foods.
It’s also a good idea to stop adding salt to your food at dinner time as you don’t need it. If you need more flavour, you can always try pepper or herbs.
For more information, read how to cut down on salt at Unpack the Salt.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.