Shaking out the Salt in Aged Care homes and Childcare centres
A common phrase you may hear or even say yourself during a meal is “can you please pass the salt”. But did you know, that a little shake here or there is giving us way more salt than we actually need. In just the right amounts, salt plays a vital role in our bodies, but too much salt often leads to associated health problems. They say life should be taken with a grain of salt, but how much salt should we really be consuming? Let’s take a closer look into the topic of salt.
What is Salt?
Salt (NaCl) is a mineral required for our body to function, it is made up of two essential elements: Sodium (Na) and Chloride (Cl). Sodium has a role in nerve function, muscle contractions, hormones, the balance of electrolytes and regulating fluid in the body.
Common Foods high in salt
Processed meats including ham, sausages, salami, bacon, smoked salmon.
Snack foods including chips, salted nuts, flavoured crackers, meat pies, sausage rolls, prepacked items in school canteens.
Some cheeses including feta cheese, cheddar cheese, brie, string cheese.
Fast food and take away- hamburgers, chips, pizza.
Health Impacts Associated with Salt Intake
Too much salt
Excessive intake of salt in the diet can increase the risk of developing a range of chronic diseases. This is because of the effect sodium has in raising our blood pressure, which adds stress on the heart and other organs. Therefore, it is important to monitor the amount of salt and aim to keep salt intake within the recommended range to prevent possible health impacts including:
High blood pressure
Kidney disease and associated problems
Fluid Retention causing swelling in parts of the body
Too little salt
Not enough salt in our diet can lead to health problems as sodium has a major role in managing fluid balance. Older adults and people with signs of malnutrition are at a higher risk of dehydration and should pay close attention to their daily fluid intake and salt intake.
Low blood pressure causing dizziness, nausea, fainting and blurred vision.
Dehydration from a low salt diet can lead to less fluid in your body.
Low sodium blood levels which can lead to neurological issues.
Daily Recommended Amounts of Sodium
Generally, children and adolescents need less sodium than adults. The upper limit of sodium intake for children and adolescents is the maximum daily amount to be consumed, it is best to aim for less than this.
Upper Limit Sodium (mg/day)
(Source: National Health and Medical Research Council)
Older Adults (+65yrs)
The suggested dietary target is set to assist in the prevention of chronic disease risk at a population level. It is recommended for generally well adults to consume no more than 2,000mg of sodium per day. This equates to about a teaspoon (5g) of salt per day, keeping in mind the amount of sodium in those packaged food items.
However, it is important to note if you have any health conditions and have been advised by your healthcare professional to reduce your salt intake it is best to follow their recommendations.
Look out for the hidden salt in foods
Salt can occur naturally in certain foods however food manufacturers generally increase the salt content of everyday products for flavour enhancement or as a food preservative extending the shelf life. This is known as ‘hidden salt’.
Common foods with high salt content that may surprise you include:
canned products- vegetables and legumes,
premade and packet soups,
sauces and condiments including soy sauce, fish sauce, bottled sauces, salad dressings, gravy, vegemite and breakfast cereals.
Therefore, it is always important to check the labels to find out how much sodium is in your food. Choose for products that have less than 120mg of sodium per 100g.
5 Tips on reducing salt intake
Avoid adding salt during cooking, instead try alternative flavour enhancements such as herbs (parsley, basil, chives, rosemary, coriander, oregano), spices (paprika, cumin, cloves, pepper), garlic, ginger, lemon juice, chilli or vinegar.
Choose salt reduced varieties for stocks, canned foods, sauces, premade sauces.
Always read the label on products and compare brands to find one lower in salt.
Reduce the amount of processed foods consumed, eat a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, wholegrains and low fat dairy.
Reduce the amount of packaged snack foods, especially when packing school lunches, instead choose snacks like fresh fruit, yoghurt, unsalted nuts or popcorn and vegetable sticks with homemade dips.
Overall, a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, low fat dairy and lean protein are all naturally low in salt and help lower blood pressure and improve the risk of heart disease.
Managing the amount of salt required in your diet is often a difficult task, especially in older adults with multiple health conditions. Please reach out to an OSCAR Care Group Accredited Practising Dietitian to help meet your individual needs and if you have any further questions.
For Aged Home homes, send through your referrals to email@example.com