Salt, according to Harvard Medical Health, is essential to the body. The sodium in salt helps transmit nerve impulses and contract muscle fibers. It also works with potassium to balance fluid levels in in the body.

“The body can generally rid itself of excess sodium. In some people, though, consuming extra sodium makes the body hold on to water. This increases the amount of fluid flowing through blood vessels, which can increase blood pressure,” a report on research conducted by Harvard Medical School states.

Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, went to great pains to have legislation approved to alter salt regulations, which would go a long way towards reducing hypertension (high blood pressure) in the country. According to the Southern African Hypertension Society, one in every 10 adults over the age of 25 has hypertension.

“Our salt regulations, which industry is now beginning to implement ahead of the compulsory targets set for 2016 and 2019, are projected to result in 7 400 fewer deaths due to cardiovascular disease and 4 300 fewer non-fatal strokes per year,” said Deputy Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla during a budget vote speech in 2014.

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Harvard Medical Health offers these five ways to reduce salt in your diet:

  1. Use spices and flavour enhancers. “Add flavour to your favourite dishes with spices, dried and fresh herbs, roots (such as garlic and ginger), citrus, vinegars, and wine. From black pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric to fresh basil, chilli peppers, and lemon juice, these flavour enhancers create excitement for the palate — and with less sodium.”
  2. Eat more nuts. “Using the right healthy fats — from roasted nuts and avocados to olive, canola, soybean, and other oils — can add a rich flavour to foods, minus the salt.”
  3. Sear, sauté, roast. “Searing or sautéing foods in a pan builds flavor. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of many vegetables and the taste of fish and chicken. If you do steam or microwave some dishes, perk them up with a finishing drizzle of flavourful oil and a squeeze of citrus.”
  4. Eat whole grains – not in bread. “Even whole-grain bread, though a healthier choice than white, can contain considerable sodium. Bread contains quite a bit of salt — not just for flavour, but to ensure that the dough rises properly. You can skip that extra salt when you look for whole grains outside of baking. For example, instead of toast with breakfast, cook up steel-cut oats, farro, or other intact whole grains with fresh or dried fruit.”
  5. Know your seasons and your local farmers. “Shop for raw ingredients with maximum natural flavour, thereby avoiding the need to add as much (if any) sodium. Shop for peak-of-season produce from farmers’ markets and your local supermarket.”

Source: Harvard Medical Health