Too much salt in your diet can kill you – just take it from the two million people who die from excess salt consumption every year.
A salty diet is also a leading cause of high blood pressure, which affects one out of three Australian adults.
When you throw into the mix that the average Australian eats nearly double the recommended amount of salt each day, it’s a recipe for a very sick nation.
The George Institute for Global Health took stock of the global salt consumption rates, to see how each country is tracking to the World Health Organisation’s recommendation to reduce salt consumption rates by 30 per cent, by 2025.
(This goal was set in 2013.)
So far, no countries have hit that goal.
Sure, some have reduced their consumption and others are setting in place good public health structures to pave the way for success.
But not Australia, said study author Kathy Trieu.
“Australians are still eating almost double the recommended maximum of 5g – or a teaspoon – of salt per day,” Dr Trieu said.
(Australians eat about 9 grams of salt a day.)
“While we’ve had food reformulation targets, front-of-pack labelling and national nutrition guidelines for schools in place for some time, these measures all remain voluntary and are clearly not having an impact on actual salt intakes.
The report card for Australia reads: ‘Must try harder’.’’
The government has made recommendations for salt percentages and pushed them out to the industry – but without making those standards mandatory, there’s no way we’re going to reduce our national salt consumption in time to please the WHO’s 2025 deadline.
“We need three key changes – governments need to set more comprehensive and mandatory targets, industry needs to commit to adhering to product reformulation, and consumers need to be empowered to switch from processed to fresh foods,” said Dr Trieu in the study, released on Monday.
Rethink your plate
For individuals to take control of their salt consumption, it’s not just about touching the salt shaker less.
Most of the salt in our diets is added without our awareness, especially if you eat pre-made or pre-packaged food.
The best way to keep your salt consumption down is to always choose fresh – fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and wholegrains products.
If something comes in a can or a packet, it’s probably had salt added to it as a preserving agent.
The George Institute also has a FoodSwitch app, which makes navigating supermarket aisles and product ingredient panels that little bit easier.