29 February until 6 March 2016 is World Salt awareness week. In 2016 the emphasis is on hidden salt. This is the salt in our foods that we don’t see or even taste, but that still contributes to our total salt intake. The heart and stroke foundation has this latest info to share regarding salt and your health.

Salt and your health
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a daily salt limit of 5 grams per day or about one teaspoon. In a 2011 South African study more than half of adults exceeded 10 grams salt a day, at least doubling this recommendation. The main consequence of excessive salt intake is raised blood pressure, which in turn leads to heart diseases and strokes. In fact the WHO regards raised blood pressure as the single biggest contributor to heart diseases worldwide.

Given that a devastating 1 in every 3 adults in South Africa suffer from high blood pressure, a reduction in salt intake is an easy win to prevent high blood pressure, improve existing high blood pressure, and thereby reduce the 220 fatalities from heart disease and strokes every day.

Salt and your food
The food we buy already contains salt. In fact 55% of the salt we consume is from salt added during the manufacturing process. Often we cannot see the salt, neither can we taste it – hence the term hidden salt. Hidden salt includes much more than potato chips, take-outs and boerewors. Foods such as breakfast cereals, breads, ready-made meals, sauces, spreads, cheeses and processed meats all contain hidden salts and can increase salt intake considerably.
Reducing salt intake requires two broad approaches: reduce salt added to food during manufacturing, and reduce the excessive use of salt and salty products at home.

Salt legislation is around the corner
In 2013 Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi signed legislation to reduce the salt content of a range of highly salted foods in South Africa. June 2016 is the first deadline for this stepwise reduction programme. With only 3 months to go, all eyes will be on South Africa as the first country to legislate such a wide range of foods. Early indications suggest that industry is making excellent progress towards it.

Is salt legislation enough?
On its own legislation will reduce salt intake by an average of 0.85 g per person. Whilst this is a good start, much more is needed. The next step is to help you to buy lower salt options and use less salt at home.

Empowering South Africans to know their own salt intake
When 1 000 South Africans were asked whether they believed they eat too much salt, 83% said no. Yet the study results further showed that 75% in reality consumed too much salt. Hidden salt is the main reason for this discrepancy, as salt you cannot taste or see is not fully accounted for.

The HSFSA in partnership with Unilever South Africa is introducing a new salt calculator to help South Africans evaluate their salt intake to start making better food choices. The salt calculator estimates salt intake based on the frequency by which common foods are consumed, and then provides feedback on current intake and tips on making better food choices.

HSFSA encourages members of the public to use the new salt calculator to measure their salt intake, and to start making changes. The equation is simple: check your salt – change your salt.

Table salt is perhaps one of the most common household items and ingredients in cooking. In conventional table salt, the salt is processed to remove all “impurities”. These impurities happen to be essential minerals needed for your body. After this “chemical cleaning”, what’s left is 99% sodium chloride. Sodium chloride which is not in its natural form. Table salt is a highly refined product. Additives may be also added to prevent clumping and better the pouring process. The high balance of sodium chloride in table salt makes it easy for a person to exceed the daily intake limit. While our bodies need Sodium for survival, it also needs the other minerals which are removed from natural salt in order to make table salt.

The gem of the Himalayan Mountains, pink salt, is said to be the purest salt on earth. As the lava and mountain protected salt, it has been untouched for millions of years and not exposed to the modern day pollution. Himalayan salt happens to be 85% sodium chloride, and the remainder contains over 80+ minerals. These minerals can help your body balance your PH, regulate water content, remove toxins, help absorb nutrients, prevent muscle cramping, create balance and more. Himalayan Pink Salt is used in modern cooking around the world, in producing some of the world’s finest food. Known for its pure taste and its unique pinkish hue, the Himalayan Pink Salt is one of the top choices for salt.