Salt, lies and failed regulators

One of Australia’s best selling books is the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet.

It’s an eye opener (and, hopefully, a mouth closer).

It and heart specialists agree; salt is killing many Australians.  They die from the high blood pressure, strokes and heart-related illnesses it causes.

Combine overweight – not much, just some fat around the tummy and you’re overweight; too much salt and too much stress and it’s just a question of time until these illnesses are yours.

What’s struck me over the last few months are three things.

Firstly, how much salt is in our food.

Secondly, how hard it is to find out how much salt is in the food we buy.

And, finally, how useless, neglectful and irrelevant are our food regulators.

Try going for a month finding out how much salt is in your food and you’ll agree with the heart specialist I spoke to who said that the food industry controls how much salt is in our food, not our regulators.

Now, some facts from the CSIRO’s book.  Remember, “sodium” is salt.

As you read, ask yourself, “How much salt do I see famous chefs shovelling into their dishes on cooking shows on the TV?”

  • “the National Health and Medical Research Council advises that 460 – 920 mg of sodium per day for adults is an adequate intake and that intake should not go above 2300 mg per day, which is the equivalent of approximately 6 g common salt a day.  This is a much lower amount than most Australians consume in their diet – estimates of intake range from 8 to 10 g salt per day.  Salt occurs naturally in food, and there is rarely any need to add extra salt.  While many people avoid adding salt in cooking and to salty foods, salt is included as an ingredient in many common foods such as bread and breakfast cereal, and is used as a preserving agent in many traditional foods.  More than 75% of our salt intake comes from processed foods” p10
  • “it is estimated that up to 50 per cent of the population will have developed high blood pressure by the time they retire’ p10
  • “if the food contains 120 mg sodium or less per 100 g or less, then it is low in salt’ p11

Look at the labels on packaged bread.

If you can, read them – the labels are in about 8 point and very difficult to read; thanks for that, you failed regulators.

And if you can read them – try to understand them; they have very different ways of saying how much ‘sodium’ (ie salt) is in the ‘food’ and its often difficult to calculate how much is there.

It’s very hard to find any bread anywhere with less than 300 mg per 100 gram;  most bread on sale typically has at least over three times the healthy amount of salt.

To find out how much salt is in the lovely stuff sold by specialist bread making shops you’ll have to find their recipes in their books or if they’ll tell you; the salt amount won’t be stated as their bread is typically sold without food content labels.

Of course, if you eat from fast food places you’ll not be able to find out but your tongue should tell you there are many teaspoons of salt in any of your fast food.  A teaspoon of salt is about 6 g, or the whole of your body’s healthy daily limit.

Lovely cheeses eg Parmesan has over 1200 mg of sodium.  Same high amounts for olives, sardines, anchovies, ham, proscuitto, many breakfast cereals . . . . oh!

What this means to me is that when I eat:

  • At home – I don’t cook with salt but use lemons, finger limes, chillies (fresh), lemon tea tree, lemon grass and so on – and I’ve rediscovered how good is the taste of food without added salt,
  • I eat out often – and choose things that have little or no salt as often as I can, or ask for ‘No salt’ in my dishes where it’s possible,
  • From time to time – rarely – I eat cheese, packaged cereals, and good bread sold unpackaged.  I have found a couple of terrific packaged breads but they’re hard to find.

As for our food regulators: they’re directly responsible for driving up hospital, health care and medication costs.  This is not a political issue in the sense that ideology is relevant; it’s simply about efficient government – keeping down health costs.

The cost to us in our taxes must be in the billions.  Come on – there must be a few politicians who get this and will do something to toughen up our regulators and food labels?

2 Responses to “Salt, lies and failed regulators”
  1. Caroline says:

    My kidney-expert MD neighbour is also very concerned about salt – he sees the effects of too much salt also and considers it the enemy. I’ve done hard physical work outdoors in deserts and in such circumstances, where one sweats a great deal, more salt can be necessary. However, as he points out, not many of us do that these days.

  2. kim andrews says:

    look into potassium too-the other salt

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  • Michael Mobbs

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