From ready meals to work cafeterias and fast food, it can be difficult to avoid hidden salt when home-cooked meals aren’t an option. The daily salt intake exceeds 8g for most people. Reducing this by just 10% could help save millions of lives, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Here are a few ways to get your salt intake under control, as outlined by French nutritionist Laurence Plumey.
Sticking to the recommended 5g of salt per day would involve spreading the intake as follows, like: a serving of bread (1.5g to 2g of salt), a portion of cheese (1g), lunch (1g), dinner (1g).
Although that may seem virtually impossible to achieve, a few clever dietary strategies can help move things in the right direction. It’s possible to stay in control your daily intake when eating out, bearing in mind that a lot of dishes served in cafeterias or restaurants will inevitably be salty. “6 to 8g per day is feasible,” reassures Plumey.
You’re more likely to succeed by taking note of the amount of salt in different foods and making smart choices. Apart from the basic principle of not adding extra salt to dishes that are already seasoned, you should try to avoid eating several salty foods in one sitting or look for low-salt alternatives.
Cheese fans can pick Emmental or Swiss cheese, mozzarella or fresh goat’s cheese, which are lower in salt than some other varieties, for example. And if your meal includes a slice of ham, bacon, or cured sausage, try switching cheese for yogurt or cream cheese.
The amount of salt hidden in mass-produced, processed foods (ready meals, soups, sauces) is currently in the firing line of nutritionists and health authorities. Some manufacturers are willing to cooperate and reduce salt in their products, whereas others aren’t, notes Plumey.
You’ll need to read labels carefully to make wise lunchtime choices at the store. Dishes containing more than 2g of salt per 100g are off bounds — the correct amount should be 1g of salt per portion. At home, in the evening, fill up on unprocessed frozen vegetables seasoned with frozen herbs.
You should try to avoid eating two ready meals or pre-prepared dishes in the same day. Soups, which are popular in winter, shouldn’t contain more than 1g of salt (or even 0.5g) per 200ml portion. A little notebook can be useful for keeping track of your personal intake.
These days, the greatest concern isn’t so much bread or cured meats, remarks Laurence Plumey. What’s particularly worrying is the popularity of salty junk food snacks, like chips and crackers — especially among teenagers. “In the evening, in front of the TV, you can consume a huge quantity of salt without even realising. Some brands sell chips with almost 3g of salt per 100g,” says Laurence Plumey.
Finally, a sufficient intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium to regulate blood pressure can help counteract the effects of salt. Lentils, oily fish, prunes, dried fruit, green vegetables, bananas and dark chocolate are good sources of these minerals.
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