Salt in your diet


South Africans eat double the recommended daily limit of salt on average. There was a law passed on 30 June 2016 which reduced the amount of salt in commonly consumed foods.


Let’s look at our diets:

Salt is hidden in many of our daily foods such as bread, biscuits, soups and butter and margarine. We should try to reduce salt to our cooking and to our meals after cooking. Processed foods contain a higher salt content than the food we prepare. Foods such as packet soups, stock powders, readymade frozen meals, biltong, crisps and tinned foods have a high salt content.

Try and use alternatives to add flavour to your food. Herbs, garlic, ginger, fruit juice and lemon juice are all good substitutes to add flavour without affecting health. Reducing your salt intake shouldn’t mean having to eat boring meals.

When shopping try make alternative choices to previously purchased high salty foods (eg choose unsalted nuts instead of salted nuts) and pay attention to the label and the salt content in the product. A good tip is, if the salt content is mentioned higher up on the list then it will usually have a high content. Try to avoid foods with a greater salt content of 600mg per 100g.

Health effects: (As salt draws/pulls water, a high content will affect every organ)

Salt plays a significant part in the following diseases.

  • High blood pressure. Which is often undetected as symptoms can be non-existent.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Oedema – water retention.
  • Glaucoma

Low Sodium:

Some people, however, have low sodium (hyponatremia) and do require added salt. The symptoms are dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps, tiredness and confusion. Also, some people can have low blood pressure which causes fainting and headaches. In these cases, salt is added to the diet in the form of salt tablets. When a person is on salt tablets they should have a blood test (U & E) every 3 months to ensure that salt levels do not elevate too high. The dose of salt will be adjusted according to the blood levels.

Low blood sodium is more common in the elderly and is rare. The majority of us do in fact consume too much salt and should make every effort to reduce salt content.

Reasons for a low sodium level in elderly people are:

  • Kidney failure
  • Heart failure
  • Hormonal changes
  • Drugs use – especially diuretics
  • Adrenal gland “laziness”


The original article was written by Hilary Davis