The George Institute for Global Health recently run a study of 400 Australians, asking questions about their salt consumption.
It found that on average we are eating 9 grams each per day.
The study also asked each participant how much salt they thought they were eating. The answer is frightening, as we believe we are only eating on average 6.8 grams each day – a third less than we are actually eating.
The maximum amount of salt to be consumed daily
Researcher, Associate Professor Jacqui Webster, said; “The dangers associated with eating too much salt are widely known, yet we are consuming way too much every single day, more than double than what is recommended.”
The study shows that we really don’t understand how much salt is actually in our diet.
Obviously that salt comes from two sources, what comes in our food and what we put in it at home.
The simple way to reduce salt intake is the stop adding salt at the table or during cooking and use herbs and spices instead.
However, the majority of our salt intake is coming from the food we bring into the house, and this means manufacturers.
Salt has two main functions in a processed food; flavour and preservation.
Salt is a natural preservative as it slows down bacterial growth, and is added to some foods for that reason, so reducing this may have food safety implications.
Salt is not an expensive ingredient compared to many others and does improve the flavour of many foods, so is commonly used in the food industry.
However there is a push to significantly reduce the salt content of processed foods and the results from this study support this. The problem is that we like the flavour of our favourite foods and will not buy them if the flavour changes. The good example is when Arnotts changed the flavour of their icon BBQ Shapes. Sales dropped dramatically and so Arnotts had to bring back the old recipe and relaunch the favourite. You now see two BBQ type Shapes on the shelves.
So even though it may be a good thing from a health perspective for manufacturers to reduce salt content of their foods, there are significant potential implications.
A lot of work is being done worldwide to find suitable salt alternatives, which are both flavoursome and economically viable.