South Africans consume too much salt! We cook with salty ingredients, add extra salt at the table and choose processed foods with hidden salt resulting in them consuming on average 8.5g of salt per day.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends limiting salt intake to no more than five grams per person per day; 5g = 1 level teaspoon. Excess salt intake is directly associated with raised blood pressure which may eventually lead to hypertension. The South African Demographic and Health Survey 2016 reported that 46% of women and 44% of men age 15 years and older have hypertension, which makes them vulnerable to having a stroke or suffering heart disease. Salt reduction, therefore, is the simplest and most cost-effective way to help prevent circulatory health conditions.
Prof Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the HSFSA says, “Healthy eating habits should be reinforced at an early age, during the period that babies and young children are developing their sense of taste and food preferences. Adults who are influencing the eating habits of young children, therefore, have the responsibility to ensure low-salt meals are prepared or purchased.”
Five ways to achieve five grams
There are five simple changes that individuals can make to their eating and purchasing behaviour that will help in consuming less than five grams of salt daily.
- Cut down gradually. Gradually add less salt to your favourite recipes – your taste buds will soon adapt.
- Flavour meals. Use herbs, spices, garlic, ginger, chilli and lemon to flavour foods rather than extra salt.
- Check food labels when shopping to help you identify those lowest in sodium (salt) and look out for the Heart Mark logo, which is an endorsement of the HSFSA.
- Remove the salt shaker. Take salt and salty sauces off the table so that younger family members won’t develop this salty habit.
- Eat more fruit and vegetables. The minerals in these as well as whole grains, lentils, beans, and low-fat dairy help to lower blood pressure. Remember to drain and rinse canned vegetables and beans.
Message for the food industry
HSFSA would like to take the lead in South Africa (SA) based on the WASH global targets. The Foundation would like to work with industry and government to help bring salt intake down at a population level by highlighting 5 simple additional actions. This includes educating the public on the dangers of high salt intake, teaching them to #EatLessSalt; encouraging school and workplace canteens to offer low salt options; and examining the salt intake of South Africans and determining where in the diet salt comes from.
“The food industry can be commended for their response to the salt regulations,” says Prof Edelweiss Wentzel-Viljoen, Board member of the Foundation and co-author of a recent study which found that majority (72%) of food products tested which are subject to the regulations complied with 2016 targets and 42% with 2019 targets. Many foods, however, are excluded from legislation, including fast foods. The HSFSA urges the fast food industry to clearly display the salt content of their meals and to start reducing the salt content of their offerings.
SA is currently a world-leader in salt reduction with its ground-breaking legislation to limit the salt content of commonly consumed foods. This legislation will reduce salt intake by approximately 0.85 grams per person per day and is estimated to result in 7 400 fewer cardiovascular deaths and 4 300 fewer non-fatal strokes every year in South Africa.
Get your blood pressure checked for free!
The public can once again get their blood pressure measured for free from 16 March to 8 April at all Dis-Chem in-store pharmacies nationwide. All adults are recommended to test their blood pressure at least once every year, since up to 50% of South Africans with high blood pressure remain unaware of their condition.