Salt and Sugar
Salt (sodium chloride or sodium) is used to flavour foods and as a preservative. Diets high in salt have been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer. Too much salt can also lead to high blood pressure.
The body does need some sodium. However in most circumstances we get all our sodium requirements naturally from foods. There is no need to add salt to foods. It is a good idea to switch to a low-salt diet and try flavouring foods with herbs and spices instead.
But I don’t add salt to my food!
Most of the salt we eat is hidden in packaged and take-away foods such as pizza, pies, sauces, condiments, seasonings, dressings, soups, margarines, bread and breakfast cereals. A food can still be high in salt and not taste salty.
When shopping, read labels and choose products with less sodium. Look for ‘no added salt’ or ‘low salt’ foods. A ‘low salt’ food has less than 120mg of sodium per 100g. ‘Reduced salt’ products may also be good options, but check the label to see how much salt they contain.
How much salt is OK?
You should try and eat no more than 5g of salt (2000mg sodium) each day. This is approximately 1 teaspoon of salt.
Tips for eating less salt
- Reduce the salt you use gradually – this will help your taste buds adjust.
- To add flavour to meals, use garlic, onion, chilli, lemon juice, pepper, herbs and spices.
- Swap salty snacks like pretzels, salted nuts and potato chips for fruit, low fat yoghurt or low-salt crackers.
- Limit take-away foods.
- Cut back on the amount of pre-packaged sauces, condiments and dehydrated foods such as seasoning mixes and soups.
- Reduce your intake of processed meats, e.g. sausages and salami.
- Choose fish canned in spring water rather than fish canned in brine.
- Include more fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet.
Salsa your way to less salt
A salsa is simply a sauce or topping for meat, chicken, fish, pasta, noodles, salad or bread. Try the following salsa ideas to add a real flavour boost to your meals. Simply chop ingredients finely and mix.
Thai: fresh coriander, sweet chilli sauce and crushed unsalted peanuts.
Italian: fresh basil, fresh tomato, onion, pepper, balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
Mexican: avocado, fresh tomato, red capsicum and chilli paste.
Chinese: shallot, crushed garlic, onion, crushed ginger, sesame oil and a dash of salt-reduced soy sauce.
Indian: cucumber, low fat natural yoghurt, mint, mango chutney and curry powder or paste.
Sugar in the diet is not a known risk factor for cancer. However eating too much sugar may be of concern if it leads to weight gain, as being overweight or obese is a risk factor for cancer of the bowel, kidney, pancreas, oesophagus and endometrium (womb), as well as breast cancer in post-menopausal women. What is my healthy weight?
Try not to eat too many high-sugar foods of low nutritional quality (e.g. chocolate, lollies, biscuits, cakes and soft drinks). Instead fill up on nutritious foods such as fruit and vegetables and wholegrain cereals and drink plenty of water.