This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Worried You Eat Too Much Salt? It's Hiding In Your Bread And Cereal

And you should probably put that salt shaker down, too.

Hands up if you're guilty of adding salt to most of your meals. Or if you feel like a meal isn't tasty enough until it has that extra seasoning (seriously though, who eats eggs without salt and pepper?)

You're not alone. Aussies love their salt, but the harsh truth behind the matter is we're eating far too much of it. And while you think your salt shaker might be to blame (make no mistake, it's certainly not an innocent bystander in all this) it's actually hidden salts which are causing the most damage.

Hidden salts

"In Australia, the average consumption of salt is 10 grams a day, though perhaps a bit less for women because they eat less than men," Bruce Neal, senior director at The George Institute for Global Health told HuffPost Australia.

"But most of the salt we eat in Australia isn't discretionary salt. That is to say, it's not the salt we add to our food. That actually only accounts for a small proportion of the salt you eat in a day.

"Eighty percent of the salt we eat is hidden salt you find in processed and packaged food."

The worst offenders? Your bread and cereals.

You can spend a lot of money on pretty fancy salts, but they are all equally poisonous. Professor Bruce Neal

"The main source of salt in most people's diets is bread," Neal, who is also the Chair of the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health, said.

"Which I can understand as being surprising because we don't think of it as being particular salty. The second thing, which also may come as a surprise, is breakfast cereals.

"Both contain a moderate amount of salt, and because we eat a lot of [bread and cereal], it adds up throughout the day.

"Even sweet things like muffins contain salt."

Sorry guys. Fancy salts make no difference.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sorry guys. Fancy salts make no difference.

Different salts

Sadly, the type or colour of salt you eat makes no difference when it comes to your health.

"There are many different types of salt, and you can spend a lot of money on pretty fancy salts," Neal says. "But they are all equally poisonous."

The only exception to this rule is salt substitutes, which tend to be made up of magnesium sulphate or potassium chloride, rather than the 'bad salt' sodium chloride.

But once again, because the main issue is the hidden salts rather than what we add, changing your table salt to a substitute is only going to do so much.

"If you switch salt for salt substitute, you only change five to 10 percent of the salt someone is eating," Neal says.

The problem is, it looks so tasty.
gilaxia via Getty Images
The problem is, it looks so tasty.

How much is too much salt?

Not all salt is bad. In fact, Neal points out we actually need salt in small amounts to be healthy. The issue is quantity.

"Humans evolved hundreds of thousand of years ago in an environment and diet where salt was scarce," Neal says. "It's pretty hard to have too much salt when your main diet is fresh fruits, meat and veggies.

"As we evolved, if you came across something salty, you had a like for it, it was scarce and you needed it, and the liking of salt is something that persists to this day.

"But we are already in an environment where we have plenty of salt. We don't need any more.

"You actually need a gram or a gram and a half of salt a day to be healthy, and most Australians eat five or 10 times that amount."

Try other herbs in your cooking as a substitute for salt.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Try other herbs in your cooking as a substitute for salt.

Salt and health

As salt becomes more prevalent in the modern Australian diet, Beal says there are consequences for our health.

"Little by little, it pushes the blood pressure up year after year. High blood pressure is one of the most common things people have as they get older, and one of the main reasons for that is all the extra salt.

"We also see things such as kidney disease, stroke, heart attack and heart failure."

Ways to reduce your salt intake

Ultimately, Neal says it's the responsibility of food companies to stop using so much salt in their products, but there are still some small steps you can take to help reduce the salt in your diet.

Aside from using salt substitutes, there are plenty of other herbs which can be used in cooking to help add that extra punch to a meal.

Using fresh ingredients like fruit and vegetables and unpackaged meats can also help reduce your salt intake, as well as checking packaging for sodium levels.

Finally, while refraining from sprinkling extra salt on top of a meal may be challenging at first, the National Kidney Foundation states it only takes six to eight weeks to get used to eating foods with less salt. Apparently, after you get through that period, it can even be tough to go back to your saltier taste buds.

We wonder what Salt Bae has to say about that.

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