Get Wise
about salt

Balanced intake of salt is essential to good health

What is salt?

The proper name for salt is sodium chloride as it is made up of these two naturally occurring elements.

The sodium part is what causes health concerns, and the World Health Organisation recommends that adults should consume no more than 2000mg of sodium per day, which is equivalent to 5g of salt – about a teaspoonful. Sodium is found naturally in many foods, such as dairy products, eggs, meat and vegetables, but in much higher levels in ready-made and processed foods. These “hidden salts” make up about 75% of the salt we consume. The first step to keeping your sodium levels in check and improving your overall health is to cut down on the “salty six” and eat more whole, unprocessed foods, fruit and vegetables.


Is salt the
bad guy?

Too much sodium in the body has been linked to high blood pressure (hypertension), which in turn increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Our bodies do need some salt, though, as it is one of the essential minerals needed to support good nerve and muscle functioning. In the recommended quantity, salt is an important mineral for optimal overall health.

Too much of any food can be negative for our health. Rather than singling out one “bad guy”, the key is to focus on your overall health through a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. It’s less about getting rid of the salt shaker or grinder on the kitchen counter or dinner table, and more about avoiding the salts hidden in foods that we don’t even think of as salty – taking control of your salt intake and keeping the choice in your own hands!


“In the right quantity, salt is an important mineral for optimal overall health”

salty 6

Eat these foods in moderation!

Be conscious of the amount of salt you are consuming in processed foods that you might not consider to be salty. Here is a list of some of foods already containing high levels of salt:

• Cold Cuts & Cured Meats
• Bread & Rolls
• Sandwiches
• Pizza
• Poultry
• Soup


These are meats preserved by smoking, curing or salting, and include ham, salami, “luncheon meats” from the supermarket deli counter and sausages like viennas and frankfurters. One serving – approximately 60g or 6 thin slices – can contain as much as half of your daily sodium allowance. For meaty sandwiches and wraps, rather use up your Sunday roast leftovers or opt for tuna or salmon.


Bread may not taste salty, but it’s a big culprit in the hidden salt department. Two slices of white bread can contain 300mg of sodium, and the “healthier” options such as brown, multi-grain or rye bread can hold up to 500mg of sodium – that’s a quarter of your daily allowance. Wraps don’t come off much better. The answer? Look for low-sodium options and, better still, cut down on bread – it’s good for your overall health too.


Here you’re getting a double whammy from the salt content of the bread as well as the filling, especially if it includes cold meats and condiments. Have a half a sandwich with a salad, go for fillings like veggies and hummus, boiled egg, fishy fillings or those Sunday roast leftovers.


A standard-size pizza can wipe out your daily salt allowance in one go! Save this one for treats, limit the cheese and meaty toppings, or make your own at home.


Frozen chickens, and especially individually quick frozen (IQF) portions, are injected with brine (salt and water mixture) so they don’t end up dry and tough when cooked. This can dramatically up the sodium content of the product. New South African food labelling regulations now require manufacturers to declare the percentage of added brine, and from 2015 this will be limited to 15%. So, read your labels – and rather buy fresh, 100% chicken.


A cup of tinned, packet or instant soup can contain up to half of your recommended daily intake of salt. Read the labels and look out for low sodium options – and note that slimmers’ options don’t necessarily have less salt. Best solution – make your own healthy soup at home, and then you’ll know exactly what’s in it.


Potassium is an important partner to salt – many people have low levels of potassium, which is also a factor contributing to increased blood pressure and its associated risks. At the same time as lowering your salt intake, boost your potassium levels with beans, peas, nuts, spinach, cabbage, bananas, papayas and dates. Opt for unsalted nuts to control your salt intake! Try a low-salt alternative for seasoning food – they generally contain 50% sodium chloride (salt) and 50% potassium chloride.

potassium & iodine


Iodine is another essential dietary element that is needed in only tiny quantities. Found naturally in dairy, eggs, saltwater fish, shellfish and seaweed products, it supports the production of thyroid hormone, which helps the body use energy and keeps it working the way it should. Iodine deficiency can cause thyroid problems as well as retard the mental and intellectual development of children whose mothers were iodine-deficient in pregnancy. The simplest and most cost-effective solution, promoted by the World Health Organisation, is adding iodine to salt. Sea and table salts are iodated with small amounts of iodine to support optimal body functioning.

potassium & iodine


“Iodine is another essential
dietary element that is
only needed in tiny

The good news
about salt

Salt is an important and essential mineral in many body functions. At the recommended level of no more than 5g or a teaspoon a day, salt helps to:

• Control blood sugar by promoting insulin sensitivity, which decreases the risk of diabetes.

• Maintain the right levels of stomach acid needed for good digestion.

• Reduce stress hormones and improve sleep quality.

• Improve metabolism and encourage a healthy weight.

• Support a healthy thyroid function, which helps the brain, muscles, heart and other organs work efficiently and controls how the body uses food for energy.

• Balance hormone levels, helping the body to retain other important minerals such as magnesium and potassium.


keep it natural
keep it fresh
keep it real


want better results? make better choices!

• Choose fresh and frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables. If you do use tinned vegetables, rinse them before use. The same goes for products canned or bottled in brine, like tuna, salmon, or even pickled peppers.

• Use fresh poultry, fish or lean meat, rather than canned or processed meat, including products like sausages, smoked meats or fish, and crumbed products.

• Watch out for frozen chicken (especially Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) chicken portions) that has been injected with brine – supposedly to preserve flavour and succulence. Not only are you paying for frozen, salty water but you’re upping your consumption of hidden salts.

• Check the health claims on your breakfast cereals – low-fat or wholegrain doesn’t necessarily mean less sodium. Just 100g of your morning cornflakes can count for half your daily salt allowance.

be label wise

Do you check your labels?

Food manufacturers must list the sodium content on the label, and many also indicate the actual salt content.

To see how much salt is in the product you’re buying:

Multiply the sodium content, usually given as per 100g serving, by 2.5.

For example:

Sodium content 0.8g/100g: 0.8g x 2.5 = 2g of salt per 100g

In the food label on the right, the sodium content is 25mg, or 0.025g, and so is well within the daily limit.


how much is
too much?

Now that you’re label wise, use this table as a guide when shopping.

Low salt Moderate Salt High Salt
0.1g sodium/100g 0.1g-0.6g sodium/100g More than 0.6g sodium/100g
0.3g salt or less, per 100g 0.3 – 1.5g salt/100g More than 1.5g salt/100g




Your mom was right. Fill up on vegetables – they’re good for you! Vegetables are low in calories, but nutrient-rich and packed with fibre to aid healthy digestion. Veggies can be prepared in a million different ways and there’s a wide variety to suit all tastes. Veggies come with many benefits:

• Low in calories and fats
• Rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants
• Boost immunity and protect against disease
• Protection against certain types of cancer
• Reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes
• Promote healthy digestion and bowel function
• Shop for fresh, seasonal vegetables and try to include raw vegetables in your meals – especially the dark green leafy kind. Fill half your plate with vegetables and salads, and try to include a wide variety of red, yellow, orange and green veggies.



Fruit is nature’s fast-food – portable, quick, filling, and ready to go! Plus, fruit is good for your health. Like vegetables, fruits are full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants – and good sugars. The fructose in fruit is not the same as fructose-based sweeteners used in processed foods. The fibre and chewing resistance of fruit means they take a while to eat and digest, releasing the sugar gradually into your body without causing a “sugar rush”. The benefits of getting your daily dose of fruit:
• Fibre and water content, and chewing resistance, make you feel full and reduce your overall calorie intake.
• Lower risk of serious diseases like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
• Immune-boosting and protection against some types of cancer.
• Help to control weight and blood pressure.
• Pick whole, fresh, seasonal fruits, and avoid juices, dried fruit, processed and tinned products that can be loaded with preservatives, sodium and added sugar.



Your body is made up of 60% water and good health means replacing the water lost every day through perspiration, breathing and excretion. When you’re low on essential fluids, the brain triggers the body’s thirst mechanism. Listen to your body and grab a glass of liquid – preferably water – and reap the benefits:
• Maintain the balance of bodily fluids needed for efficient digestion, transportation of nutrients and maintenance of body temperature.
• Zero calories! Water and water-rich foods like fruit and vegetables also make you feel fuller.
• Energizes muscles for physical fitness and performance.
• Helps skin to keep looking good.
• Reduces risk of kidney stones and helps your kidneys to continuously flush out toxins.
• Supports healthy bowel function and prevents constipation.



A good night’s sleep is just what the doctor ordered. Your daily six to eight hours hold more than just the benefit of a cheery morning mood. Getting enough good-quality sleep benefits your heart, weight, mind and more:
• Healthier heart, improved blood pressure control and reduced stress levels.
• Lower risk of depression and anxiety.
• Positive impact on metabolism and weight loss.
• Keep your mind more alert and focused, improve memory and learning, and sharpen creativity.
• Improved athletic performance and less daytime fatigue.
• Waking up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day is not just about how long you sleep, but also how well. Ensure a quality sleep by getting some exercise every day, avoiding caffeine in the evenings, and sticking to a restful bedtime routine.



The positive impacts of exercise and regular physical activity are hard to ignore. Exercise lifts your mood, boosts energy levels – and may even help you live longer. Exercise should be fun – it’s about connecting with family and friends, unwinding after a long day, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the great outdoors. Why exercise?
• Burn calories – prevent weight gain, and encourage and maintain weight loss.
• Being active keeps the blood flowing smoothly and lowers the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
• Combat health problems like stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and arthritis.
• Feel better about your body – boost confidence and self-esteem.
• Reduce stress, improve your mood and lower risk of depression and anxiety.
• Heart and lungs work more efficiently, improving your strength and energy for daily chores.
• Physical activity improves sleep – helping you to fall asleep faster and enjoy quality sleep. What are you waiting for? Get your body moving for 30 minutes a day!