Reducing salt intake: use a pinch of creativity
Salt is a mineral that is essential to our bodies for many different functions – including the absorption and excretion of fluids, nervous system function and muscle contraction. However, too much salt intake can lead to negative health outcomes – including hypertension and a higher risk of cardiovascular and kidney diseases. Therefore it is important to stay within the recommendations.
Salt intake recommendations
Healthy adults are advised to consume a maximum of 6 grams of salt (2.4 grams of sodium) per day. There are also a number of groups who should be extra careful with salt intake due to being at higher risk of issues. This includes people with high blood pressure, individuals with excessive weight or obesity, and the older population.
It can be difficult to determine exactly how much salt you consume on a daily basis. Our salt intake does not only come from the pinch of salt we may add to a dish, but also from processed foods such as ready-made soups, sauces, and meals. Food producers often add a lot of salt to these products, so eating these foods often can really contribute to excess intake. In addition, baked goods, dairy products and deli foods also often contain salt.
Take a simple sandwich for example, if you were to have 2 slices of bread, with a slice of pre-cut cheese, a slice of cold cut meat and some hummus spread, you would be consuming around 2 grams of salt in one sandwich. This is already one third of your daily requirement and shows just how easily our salt intake can accumulate throughout the day.
Tips to reduce salt
Whilst a completely salt-free diet is not necessary nor advised, you can reduce your overall intake by making some small adjustments in daily food choices. Here are some great tips that you can already do to lower your salt intake and improve your health:
- Reduce your intake of cold cuts
Do you eat deli meats regularly? Make a smarter choice by opting for cooked meat instead of smoked meat, because smoked cold cuts contain more salt. Swap your pre-cut cheese by slicing your own, having smaller slices or choose for a dairy spread instead. You could also swap cold cuts for a boiled egg with garden herbs every now and then.
- Reduce your intake of ready-made and processed products
If you have the time and desire, make your own sauces and dishes instead of buying pre-made – this way you can control how much salt is added. Pasta sauce from a jar, for example, can contain up to 2.5 grams of salt per portion. A homemade, fresh pasta sauce with fresh herbs and spices and without added table salt will contain much less salt. Similarly, most ready-made meals contain more salt than is typically added in a homemade dish, so simply by preparing your own meals you will be able to reduce your overall salt intake. Check out our overview at the bottom of this article to get inspired.
- Pay attention to the food labels when you are doing your grocery shopping
The amount of salt can vary between different food brands within one product category. Compare the amount of salt to help make the best choice. Sometimes a food label does not note the amount of salt. In that case you can base your decision on the amount of sodium that might be noted instead. Top tip: 1 gram of salt is equal to 0.4 grams of sodium.
- Add more herbs and spices to enhance flavour
Adding extra flavour by means of herbs and spices reduces the need for additional salt. You can get creative and try new flavours – or even grow your own herbs to further inspire you. Combine different kinds of herbs and spices and discover along the way what you like best.
- Try potassium salt
If you really miss the taste of salt and the alternatives in this article are not sufficient for you to reduce your salt intake, then potassium salt might be an option for you. Potassium salt contains less sodium and can be used as a replacement for table salt. However, potassium salt is not suitable for everyone. People that use ACE inhibitors, diuretics and/or have kidney problems have to be cautious. They are at risk to create too high potassium levels in their blood. Do you have doubts about using potassium salt? Please consult a dietitian or a doctor.
Give yourself some time to get used to the flavour of low salt dishes. If you have been eating salty meals for a long time, your taste buds are used to that. That is why it might take a bit of time to get to appreciate a meal without or with lower salt.
Did we boost your creativity with this article? Take a look at our recipes and get to cooking!
1.De Nederlandse Hartstichting. (z.d.). Zout eten. Hartstichting. Retrieved on October 4, 2021, from https://www.hartstichting.nl/gezond-leven/gezond-eten/zout-eten?gclid=CjwKCAjwzOqKBhAWEiwArQGwaD6sHxyS-eYEDsSrIfyMaNOFHsj60en7S72–C4Ds2EEf-KeFfgOHxoCN-UQAvD_BwE
- RIVM. (2016). Inname natrium. Voedselconsumptiepeiling. Retrieved on October 4, 2021, from https://www.wateetnederland.nl/resultaten/vitamines-en-mineralen/inname/natrium
- Voedingscentrum. (z.d.). Zout en natrium. Retrieved on October 4, 2021, from https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/encyclopedie/zout-en-natrium.aspx
- De Nederlandse Hartstichting. (2020). Zoutwijzer. Hartstichting. Retrieved on October 4, 2021, from https://www.hartstichting.nl/getmedia/4a1e5c3c-43bf-46b9-9e31-1330275d8543/pv154_zoutwijzer_2020.pdf