Salt and diabetes

Monday, 29 July 2019

Eating foods lower in sodium (salt) is important for all Australians, but for people living with diabetes it is especially important in reducing the risk of complications like heart and kidney disease. Increased salt intake is also associated with increased blood pressure.

Even if you aren’t someone who adds salt to your cooking or to food at the table, you might be surprised how much salt is hidden in everyday foods.

Food manufacturers love to add salt to products as it not only makes it taste good, it helps extend the shelf life. Highly processed foods, takeaways and restaurant meals are some of the main culprits for sneaking salt into our diet.

The suggested daily target for sodium for adults is 2,000mg with children requiring even less. Most Australian adults consume far beyond this.

Follow these top tips for reducing the sneaky salt in your diet without losing the flavour.

Choose whole and unprocessed foods where possible

Three-quarters of our intake of sodium comes from the processed foods we include in our diet, even if they don’t taste very salty. Choose healthy, fresh, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, legumes, nuts and wholegrains where possible over packaged or processed alternatives. Avoid pre-flavoured products and add your own flavourings with herbs and spices.

Look for low sodium or no added salt products

Foods labelled ‘low salt’ or ‘low sodium’ by law are required to contain no more than 120mg of sodium per 100g. No added salt means just that, the product must have no salt added in manufacturing. However be mindful that foods that claim reduced sodium or reduced salt just need to require less than the original version. This is usually around 25% less and while it is an improvement, it doesn’t mean it is necessarily a low salt product.

 Beware the salt substitutes

‘Lite’ salt or other replacement products seem like a great solution. However, these products contain potassium chloride rather than sodium chloride, which can be a concern for those with kidney problems. Potassium is a naturally occurring mineral found in many foods, but should be used in concentrated form with caution, especially if you have kidney disease.

Look to herbs and natural spices to add interest and flavour to your meals

Herbs and spices, as well as citrus, garlic, onion, ginger and chilli are fantastic for adding flavour to your meals. Look to diverse countries and cultures for inspiration. Experiment in the kitchen with different flavour combinations to season meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains.

Italian flavours: Basil, oregano, garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil

Chinese flavours: Garlic, ginger, chilli, sesame oil, Chinese 5 spice powder

French flavours: Tarragon, red and white wine vinegar, garlic

Middle Eastern flavours: Mint, cumin, allspice, parsley, za’atar

Moroccan flavours: Harissa, coriander seeds, chilli, cinnamon, saffron, sumac, mint

Indian flavours: Garam marsala, curry powder, curry leaves, chilli, cumin, turmeric

Thai flavours: Lemongrass, kaffir lime, chilli, fresh coriander, Thai basil

Vietnamese flavours: Chilli, fresh coriander, Vietnamese mint

Mexican flavours: Chilli, lime, oregano, cumin

Spanish flavours: Smoked paprika, saffron, olive oil, sherry vinegar

Shopping wisely and choosing a diet based on healthy wholefoods flavoured with natural herbs and spices is a simple way to live a low sodium life.

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By Tiffanie Kendall, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Diabetes NSW & ACT

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