Salt Myths

I can’t be eating too much salt because I don’t add it to my food
False!

As 75% of the salt we eat comes from processed foods, such as bread, breakfast cereals and sauces, adding salt to your food is only part of salt reduction. You also need to learn to understand labels so that you can keep high salt food out of your shopping trolley.

Food has no flavour without salt
False!

If you have developed a taste for salt, then you will really only miss it for the first few weeks that you cut down. This is because our taste buds adjust very quickly to a low salt diet. Many people who cut back on salt are surprised by how soon they get used to their new diet and how much they appreciate the subtler flavours that salt used to mask.

You can tell what foods are high in salt because they taste salty
False!

Sugar can often mask the salt in foods. This is particularly true of some biscuits and breakfast cereals. The more you cut back on salt, the more likely you are to notice salt in foods where you didn’t notice it before.

Only old people need to worry about how much salt they eat
False!

Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure at any age. It’s true that you have less chance of developing heart disease or stroke in your 20s or 30s than when you’re older. But if you have high blood pressure when you’re young, you’re still at greater risk than someone the same age with normal blood pressure.

Fancy salt is better for you than table salt
False!

Salt is also known as sodium chloride. It’s the sodium in salt that can raise your blood pressure. It doesn’t matter how expensive salt is, where it is from, or whether it comes in grains, crystals or flakes – it still contains sodium which has harmful effects on health.

You need more salt in hot climates because you sweat so much
False!

We only lose a small amount of salt through sweat, even in extremely hot places. So there’s no need to eat more salt in hot climates. But it’s important to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.

If I cut down on salt my body won’t have enough
False!

It’s actually very difficult to eat too little salt. This is because it’s in so many everyday foods, such as breakfast cereals, ready meals, soups, sauces and biscuits. And people in some countries survive on a fraction of the amount of salt eaten in typical Western and Asian diets.

I would know if I had high blood pressure
False!

Many people with high blood pressure have no symptoms, so you can’t assume that your blood pressure is normal if you haven’t had it tested. In Australia, nearly a third of people have high blood pressure and many of them are not aware of it.

The body gets rid of extra salt, so I don’t have to worry about how much I eat.
False!

The body does have good systems for managing salt levels. However, the amount of salt we eat now is many, many times greater than we actually need. This excess salt is swamping our coping mechanisms so that our bodies always contain more salt than they require. The main effect of this is to raise our blood pressure and increase our risk of stroke, heart attack and early death.

Cultures that eat a lot of salt also live the longest, therefore salt is good for you.
False!

There are many reasons why this is untrue. First, not all cultures that eat a lot of salt live the longest. Indeed, in rural areas of Northern China where salt consumption is very high, life expectancy is not especially great. And the death toll from complications of high blood pressure is enormous.

In countries like Japan, where salt intake is high and life expectancy is long, there are other reasons for the long life expectancy. For example, saturated fat consumption is very low in Japan and health care services are very good. The problems of excess salt and high blood pressure in Japan are well recognised and life expectancy would be greater still if less salt was consumed.

There’s no real evidence that salt is a major contributor to high blood pressure
False!

There is very strong evidence that salt is a major contributor to high blood pressure. This evidence comes from a range of studies including population studies, intervention studies, treatment trials and epidemiological studies. It is also supported by animal studies.

Scientific research has found that a modest reduction in salt intake for four weeks or more has a significant effect in reducing blood pressure. And the extent of the reduction in blood pressure reflects the size of the reduction in salt intake.