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Drop the salt, and increase your health

According to the Heart Foundation of Australia, all of us, even those who don’t have high blood pressure, should reduce our salt intake. This is because high salt diets are strongly linked to a variety of health problems from heart disease to kidney disease and certain cancers.

Reducing your salt intake can help prevent you from developing high blood pressure and may also reduce your risk of developing other conditions such as osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney diseases and Meniere’s disease.

Why can salt be harmful?

One of the main effects salt has on the body is to increase blood pressure.

High blood pressure occurs when great force is exerted by your blood on the inside walls of your arteries. Consuming too much salt can cause your body to retain more water, increasing the pressure on your arteries.

What are the consequences of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure strains blood vessel walls, making them more likely to become hard and more easily clogged. This can greatly increase your risk of stroke and heart attacks, which are two of the most common causes of death and illness in Australia.

High blood pressure also puts more strain on your heart as it has to pump harder against the increasing pressure to push your blood around the body, and this in turn increases the risk of heart failure.

If left untreated, high blood pressure can also damage your eyesight, lead to kidney failure, and contribute to a host of other health problems.

Do I need to reduce my salt intake if my blood pressure is normal?

According to the Heart Foundation of Australia, all of us, even those who don’t have high blood pressure, should reduce our salt intake. This can help prevent you from developing high blood pressure and may also reduce your risk of developing other conditions that have been linked to salt.

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Where does the salt in our diet come from?

About 75 per cent of our salt intake is added to our food during the manufacturing process. We add about another 15 per cent ourselves during cooking and eating. The remaining 10 per cent comes from salt that occurs naturally in food.

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So how much salt should I have in my diet?

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council suggests the adult daily dietary target should be less than 1,600mg sodium (equivalent to 4g salt), with 2,300mg (6g of salt) the maximum daily upper limit. This upper limit is equivalent to about a teaspoon of salt.

If you have high blood pressure or an existing heart condition, you should reduce your salt intake to below 4g salt per day or less.

Remember, these amounts include salt from all sources — the salt we add at home to our cooking as well as salt already added to foods during the manufacturing process.

Note that all varieties of salt contain sodium and can have the same effect on your health. Sea salt, rock salt and vegetable salt are no better for your blood pressure than ordinary table salt.

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How can I reduce the salt in my food?

  • Read nutrition panels to look for foods that contain less salt — a low-salt food is one with 120mg salt or less per 100g; a high-salt food is one with 500mg salt or more per 100g. Remember that salt often turns up in unexpected places like sweet biscuits and breakfast cereals.
  • Choose fresh, unprocessed foods including more vegetables and fruit over processed foods. For example, snacking on fresh fruit rather than packaged snack foods or biscuits can help reduce your salt intake.
  • Replace salt with other flavour boosters such as herbs, spices, fresh ginger, garlic, chilli, vinegars and citrus like lemon and lime juice or lemon and lime zest
  • Reduce salty foods such as bacon, ham, salami and pizza, and salty snacks like chips
  • Don’t automatically add the amount of salt stated in recipes — try adding half or less. If a recipe includes other salty ingredients like stock powder, Asian sauces, olives, capers, anchovies, bacon, cheese, ham or smoked salmon, you shouldn’t need extra salt.
  • Be sparing when using stock powders and packaged stock
  • Add Asian sauces to stir-fries sparingly — you’ll need less if you increase the amount of natural flavours like chilli, ginger, garlic, lime, mint or coriander.

Won’t reducing salt affect the flavour of foods?

If you reduce your salt intake gradually, your taste buds will gradually adjust so you can enjoy foods with less salt added.

As mentioned above, you can try replacing salt with other strong natural tastes such as herbs and spices for a flavour boost.

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Don’t Australians need more salt because we live in a hot climate?

According to Australian Division of World Action on Salt (AWASH), we only lose a small amount of salt through sweat, even in very hot places. If you experience cramping after sweating a great deal, the muscle cramps are due to dehydration rather than a lack of salt. On hot days, you should drink plenty of water instead to keep hydrated and before, during and after exercise. This can help return the water-sodium balance to normal.

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Further information

Australian Division of World Action on Salt (AWASH)

Heart Foundation of Australia

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Australian Division of World Action on Salt (AWASH). Salt Myths. [online] Sydney, NSW: The George Institute for International Health. C2010 [accessed 2 Aug 2010] Available from:

Better Health Channel. Salt. [online] Melbourne, VIC: State Government of Victoria. c1999-2010 [updated Aug 2009, accessed 2 Aug 2010] Available from:

Dietitians’ Association of Australia (DAA). Salt. [online] Deakin, ACT: DAA. [updated 4 Aug 2008, accessed 2 Aug 2010] Available from:

Heart Foundation of Australia. Reduce your salt. [online] Australia. [updated 16 Jan 2010, accessed 2 Aug 2010] Available from:

National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand including recommended dietary intakes. [online]. Canberra: ACT: Commonwealth of Australian. 2006 [accessed 2 Aug 2010] Available from:

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This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.

Bupa Australia Pty Ltd makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. Bupa Australia is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of or reliance on the information. Except that which cannot be excluded by law. We recommend that you consult your doctor or other qualified health professional if you have questions or concerns about your health. For more details on how we produce our health content, visit the About our health information page.

Last published 31 October 2011