Lower salt intake achievable
New Zealanders consume at least twice the recommended intake of salt for a healthy diet, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and stomach cancer.
However, a study by the Department of Public Health (Wellington) has found it would be relatively easy to significantly reduce salt intake for men and women.
Lead author, Associate Professor Nick Wilson, says the target is achievable at under $9 a day for a range of diets – some with familiar New Zealand meal components. He says it is important for people and Government to take notice as high-salt diets rank 11th as a risk factor for disease.
“The key is not only to reduce the amount of salt used in cooking and with meals, but particularly the amount of processed food people eat,” Wilson explains.
“Processed food is often very high in salt and, restricting this, means one can reach the ‘ideal’ average salt intake of under four grams, or two thirds of a teaspoon, a day relatively easily.”
Wilson says that the healthiest low salt diets in the study were Mediterranean and Asian diets, providing the latter excluded high-salt sauces such as standard soy sauce. These two diets use fresh, unprocessed vegetables and fruit.
Wilson says that although individuals can reduce their salt intake themselves, it would be more effective if Government did more by, for example, setting upper limits for salt in foods such as bread, processed meat and sauces, and considering junk-food taxes on processed foods that are high in salt, sugar and saturated fat.