What’s the low down on salt?

April 13, 2010 BY: LISA

The Facts about Sodium/Salt

Do we need salt?

Salt is essential for our body to maintain correct volume of circulating blood and fluid in our tissues. Excessive sodium loss is rare as our diet provides far more that we need to survive. Our body can adjust sodium excretion levels to counteract low sodium levels or excess fluid loss from sweating- the body will pass out more or less fluid to keep sodium levels stable, so under normal circumstances not getting enough sodium is rare.

Severe sodium loss is only likely to occur in cases of acute gastro enteritis, severe sweating or water intoxication.

How much salt do we need?

Suggested daily target= 1600mg (adults, less for children and infants), for the prevention of chronic disease.

This very low level of sodium is difficult to achieve due to the amount of sodium present in the Australian food supply.

Actual Australian average intake: 3450mg/day

The recommended level to aim for is actually the Upper Level (UL) =2300mg = 1 ½ teaspoons salt/day. This does not mean limiting the salt we add to food to 1 ½ teaspoons salt as 75% of sodium in our food is that already present in processed foods.


If I don’t get enough salt in my diet I will get muscle cramps.


Muscle cramps are caused by dehydration not low salt.

Is there a problem with having too much salt?

Sodium causes increases in blood pressure, people most sensitive to these increases in blood pressure are those with diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and older age also increases susceptibility.

High sodium intake has been linked to the following conditions:

  • Heart failure
  • Kidney problems/kidney stones
  • Oedema
  • Stroke
  • Gastric cancer
  • Osteoporosis – high salt diets can cause excess urinary calcium excretion.


Tips to decrease salt:

  • Eat fresh food instead of processed
  • Choose no added salt, salt reduced or  no salt canned foods, bread and margarines
  • Eat cold roast meats instead of processed deli meats
  • Use small amounts of salty sauces
  • Add herbs and spices instead of salt
  • “Research shows herbs and spices pack a powerful biological punch. Not only are they high in phytonutrients including antioxidants, they are also rich in vitamins and minerals and other bioactive compounds” Professor  Linda Tapsell states
  • Avoid salt in cooking and at the table
  • Choose salt reduced bread and breakfast cereals
  • Cut back on take away and snack foods
  • Avoid decrease dehydrated or packaged foods such as instant pasta or soup
  • Cut back on pre-packaged sauces and condiments
  • Decrease  your use of white bread/ white rolls

Did you know…?

  • Sea salt, onion, celery and garlic salts are not low sodium substitutes
  • A jam sandwich has only 30% less salt that an vegemite sandwich because most of the sodium is in the bread
  • A bowl of cornflakes has a similar sodium level to a small packet of plain chips
  • Some sweet biscuits have the same or more sodium than savoury biscuits
  • Ricotta, cottage, mozzarella, Swiss cheese are lower in sodium than other cheeses.

Article written by Lisa Renn, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) for “Good Health” magazine.



  1. I guess the advice here is read the labels… it may appear to be a healthy choice, but we need to check the sodium levels.

    John Naismith
    April 14th, 2010
  2. Wow Lisa. That answers a lot of my questions about salt and some answers to questions I didn’t know to ask.

    John Naismith
    April 16th, 2010
  3. I didn’t know that.

    toasty redhead
    May 15th, 2011
  4. I’ve been coming here for a roughly a week now and have decided to make my first post to say thank you.

    Alex Saurel
    July 27th, 2011
  5. Thank you for a great post.

    straight through
    August 23rd, 2011
  6. Hello this is a great write-up. I’m going to e-mail this to my associates. I stumbled on this while exploring on google I’ll be sure to come back. thanks for sharing.

    Dallas Vee
    October 7th, 2011
  7. Excellent article, thanks!

    Tech Blog
    March 13th, 2012
  8. I’m pretty pleased to discover this great site. I wanted to thank you for your time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also have you book marked to look at new things on your web site.

    September 2nd, 2012

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