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Why Salt Matters

Salt matters for two very compelling reasons:

  1. it causes or aggravates over 20 salt-related health problems
  2. at least 6 million Australians (half the adult population) have salt related health problems.

Adding salt to the natural food supply is artificial - and very recent on the time scale of human evolution. In recorded history the technology for making crystalline sodium chloride (common salt) is even more recent than agriculture, and it was only the industrial revolution that made it cheap and abundant enough for the heavy use we make of it today.

The Salt Skip Program

Except where special conditions raise safety issues, the Salt Skip Program follows:

  1. The Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults — choose foods low in salt
  2. The Food Standards Code — sodium in low salt foods must not exceed 120 mg/100g

This gives good salt control as technically defined in the Professional pages.

Fresh foods. The sodium content of breast milk is only 14mg/100g, and all other fresh natural (unsalted) foods are low in salt with rare exceptions.

Processed foods. Check the label and choose only low salt foods with sodium no more than 120 mg/100g. See Australian labels , European labels and US/Canadian labels. Greater consumer demand will lead to a better supply and wider choice of low salt processed foods.

Live well by choosing the healthiest foods on the planet

Low salt foods include all the healthiest produce on the market -- fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, meat and poultry, unsalted nuts and milk. With all the vinegars, herbs and spices they make delicious meals. That makes it easy for most people to skip salt with a more interesting and varied diet than they were having before, especially with help from Salt Matters, the book on the Salt Skip Program.

Chapters in the book Salt Matters review the wonderland of food flavours other than salt, and methods of cooking that conserve and enhance flavour. There is a chapter of recipes to get you started, and a chapter on special occasions, dining out and how to get a further boost in health and lower blood pressure while enjoying the Christmas celebrations. Another chapter goes into all the ways of getting enough iodine without using iodised salt. As bread is a staple food and normally contains a lot of salt, there is a whole chapter on bread, with recipes. Many small bakeries take orders for unsalted bread.

We never give a young baby salt

Baby Crying'Normal' (salted) food killed a 3-month-old infant (Salt Matters page 167) and added salt is illegal in foods sold for babies under 12 months. Scare tactics? If you think so, look at the start of Professional Pages.

Adults too can enjoy robust health on fresh foods with no added salt. Whole societies are 'salt free', living in isolated tribal habitats from tundra to tropical rainforest, with the natural salt intake on which the human body evolved, and to which it is still adapted.

We never give salt to any of the 'salt free' societies

That experiment has been done and a repeat would be unethical -- a daily salt intake that we call 'normal' raised the blood pressure of Papua-New Guinea Highlanders in 10 days (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1988;47:502-08 ) and gave chimpanzees high blood pressure in two years (Nature Medicine 1995;1:1009-1016). Obviously 'salt free' humans would not give informed consent to repeating the experiment, and no ethics committee would permit it.

Cold turkey or gradual change?

Hobart patients who made a cold turkey change have never reported any problem.  They want results, and feel better on a less artificial diet (off the high salt, high fat and high sugar diet).

When salt gives patients a health problem the relatives who share their genes would be wise to come off that artificial diet too. With less hurry for results, the relatives may prefer gradual change.

Salt suppresses the sense of taste, but nature repairs the damage and the salt preference alters rapidly after a cold turkey change. Recovery is noticeable within a week and especially in four weeks. Eventually salt-preserved foods become virtually inedible.


Page last modified on: Monday 01 Nov, 2010