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Salt is essential for life, however, Australians are consuming far too much. The terms salt and sodium are often used interchangeably but they refer to different things. Salt is made up of sodium and chloride and it’s the sodium in salt that can be bad for your health.

You can use this calculator to convert sodium listed on food products into grams of salt.

Salt and high blood pressure

Eating too much sodium over time can increase your risk of high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. For a healthy heart, it’s important not to eat too much salt.

To reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease, the Heart Foundation recommends adults eat less than 5g of salt (2000mg of sodium) a day. That’s less than a teaspoon a day.

Talk with your doctor or health practitioner about what’s right for you.

High dietary intakes of salt can lead to high blood pressure. Reducing salt in your diet can reduce your blood pressure, however, the extent to which it does depends on age, physical activity levels, weight and stress.

Salt and your health

High salt intake impacts the body and your health in many ways and is linked to conditions other than high blood pressure such as:

  • heart failure/heart attack
  • kidney problems and kidney stones
  • oedema (fluid retention)
  • stroke
  • left ventricular hypertrophy (thickening of heart muscle)
  • osteoporosis.

Salt in food

Sodium is found in almost every food we eat, but the amount varies. Foods such as vegetables and fruit have naturally occurring sodium present in very small quantities. Food manufacturers use salt as a flavouring and a preservative in their products.

Discretionary foods contribute large amounts of salt to the diet. But they also take the place of healthy foods, many of which are naturally low in sodium.

Foods such as pizzas, pastries, biscuits and take away foods as a whole contribute the most sodium to the Australian diet.

The main sources of sodium are:

  • Grain-based products and dishes (including pizza and savoury pasta dishes)
  • Meat, poultry and their products (including processed meats, hamburgers and sausages)
  • Cereal and cereal products (including bread and breakfast cereals).

How to reduce your daily sodium intake

The best way is to follow these simple steps in our nutrition guide. If you still find it hard to cut down, try these tips to help you.

Cut out the salt in packaged foods. If you do eat packaged foods try ‘No Salt’, ‘Low Salt’, or ‘Reduced Salt’ varieties. When looking at the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) try to avoid products with more than 400mg of sodium per 100g. The best options are products with less than 120mg sodium per 100g.

Read more about food labels.