New research has found that an otherwise healthy diet isn’t enough to counteract the impact high salt intake has on your health.
The study – published in the journal Hypertension – followed the eating habits of 4,680 men and women from China, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States over a four day period.
Researchers analysed urine samples to determine concentrations of sodium and potassium, an essential mineral that helps to lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of salt. They also noted the nutrients each participant was consuming that could be linked to low blood pressure.
Their results showed a strong connections between a higher salt intake and high blood pressure, even in participants who high levels of potassium in their urine and reported to follow a healthy diet.
They discovered that the average salt consumption of adults in each of the regions was well above the World Health Organisation recommended amount of five grams per day, which is about a teaspoon. For UK residents, the average intake was 8.5 grams, US participants consumed 9.6 grams, Japanese citizens ate 11.7 grams and those in China ate a whopping 13.4 grams.
According to a paper recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia, Aussie men are consuming around 10 grams of salt per day while women are taking in around seven grams.
Excessive salt intake is associated with high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
“This research shows there are no cheats when it comes to reducing blood pressure,” said lead author Dr Queenie Chan, according to Science Daily. “Having a low salt diet is key – even if your diet is otherwise healthy and balanced.”
However, reducing your intake is less about what you’re sprinkling on your food and more about what’s already hiding in everyday items.
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“As a large amount of the salt in our diet comes from processed food, we are urging food manufacturers to take steps to reduce salt in their products,” Dr Chan added.
In fact, according to the Heart Foundation, 75 percent of the salt we eat comes from packaged and processed foods, like, cereals, processed meats, soups, sauces, spreads and bread. Yep, even bread.
“Most people don’t think that bread has salt,” Gabrielle Maston, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, told Women’s Health.
“That’s also our multigrain and wholemeal breads as well. So if you have more than two slices of bread per day you’ll actually reach your recommended daily intake of salt. It’s very easily overdone.”
Gabrielle also recommends filling out your diet with whole foods, that way there’s less room for the salt-heavy stuff.
“Getting rid of discretionary foods for a start, so making them sometimes things rather than daily. I recommend people to only have discretionary foods once a week, as a treat in a small amount and then on the flip side, look at eating more whole foods because we know that healthy foods like our fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are naturally low in salt so if we tend to eat a majority of healthy foods you’ll have a naturally lower in salt diet.”
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