Hidden salt lurking in our food

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By now most of us know about the link between high salt diets and increased risk of heart disease.

But did you also know that many seemingly healthy packaged foods can be packed full of salt?

The Heart Foundation, in conjunction with VicHealth, recently launched the ‘Unpack the Salt’ campaign to draw awareness to the staggering amount of hidden salt in common packaged foods.

While it’s true that we need a certain amount of salt for the body to function, we can generally reach this target simply from fresh foods like fruit and vegetables.

But in reality we all consume packaged goods, which means that even if you skip salt at the dinner table you could unknowingly be having too much salt in your diet.

Some of the biggest culprits include cooking sauces, breads, ready meals, processed meats, dressings, condiments, dips and crackers, cheese and baked goods.

This doesn’t mean those foods have to be off the menu, but it pays to be smart when it comes time to head down the supermarket aisles.

The Heart Foundation recommends a maximum salt intake for healthy adults of 5g (approximately one teaspoon and equivalent to 2000mg of sodium).

To achieve this there’s a few simple changes you can make.

Of course, eating as much fresh produce as possible is a great place to start, but if you do buy packaged vegetables aim for frozen over tinned as tinned options are packaged in salt and water – often known as brine.

If you do choose tinned products, be sure to drain and rinse them to remove any excess salt.

When you’re doing the shopping it also pays to read the label.

Keep an eye out for no salt or low salt varieties. If there’s no mention on the label then the Unpack the Salt campaign recommends checking the nutrition panel for sodium and trying to avoid products with more than 400mg of sodium per 100g.

When it comes time to sit down to your meal, skip the salt shaker and try seasoning with fresh herbs or pepper instead.

Salt is not the enemy, but as with anything nutrition related it pays to be informed so you can achieve a healthy balance.

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