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More about salt

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends limiting salt intake to 5g a day.

What is salt?

A pile of salt crystals

Salt is a common food ingredient used for taste and enhancing other flavours in foods as well as providing a role in food preservation. It is a combination of 2 minerals, sodium and chloride. The most common kind is table salt but other popular kinds of salt include sea salt, rock salt and flakes. It is the sodium part which is significant when it comes to talking about health.

Sodium is an essential mineral for balancing water levels in our bodies and regulating nerve impulses and muscle contractions. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has set an adequate intake (AI) of 460-920mg sodium a day to make sure basic requirements are met. (Source NHMRC, Nutrient Reference Values). This corresponds to approximately 1-2g salt a day.

How much salt do we currently consume?

Most people consume too much salt, on average 9–12 grams per day, or around twice the recommended maximum level of intake (Source WHO).

Around 75% of salt in our diet comes from processed food such as bread, ready meals, soups, breakfast cereal and snacks (Source: Heart Foundation). The rest comes from salt which is added during cooking and at the table during meal times. And a very small amount comes from salt naturally found in vegetables, fruit, dairy and meats.

What are the global guidelines relating to daily salt intake?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends limiting salt intake to 5g a day (which equates to just under 1 teaspoon or 2000mg sodium) to reduce blood pressure (Source WHO).

Why do we need to limit our salt intake to 5g or less a day?

Too much sodium from salt in the diet has been linked with increased blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack. Source FSANZ; http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/nutrition/salt/Pages/default.aspx

Reducing salt in your diet can reduce your blood pressure, however, the extent to which it does depends on age, physical activity levels, weight and stress. Source, https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition/salt

Simple tips to reduce added salt in the diet

The Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults (2013) recommend limiting foods with ‘added salt’. Similarly, the Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand (2015) recommend choosing foods low in sodium.

  • IN STORE: For lower salt options, look at the Nutrition Information Panel on the label, specifically at the sodium per 100g, when comparing packaged foods in a similar category. But also keep in mind the serve size, and what this means as a percentage of the recommended daily sodium intake (% Daily Intake column).
  • IN THE KITCHEN: A great way to add flavour to your favourite dishes, without adding extra salt is to add herbs and spices. For example, a pinch of paprika, bunch of basil or coriander or even some grated lemon rind can boost the flavour without the need for extra salt.
  • AT THE TABLE: Limit the salt you add at the table. Try and taste before you season, that way you can determine whether you really need that extra pinch of salt.
  • One step at a time. Remember, you're most likely to succeed in the reducing your salt intake if you do it gradually. It gives your sense of taste time to adapt.

What is Unilever doing to reduce sodium in its food products?

Health and wellbeing has always been a key focus for Unilever. Unilever has been on a sodium reduction journey since the late 1990’s. In 2009 we launched our sodium reduction strategy which was further intensified through the development of the Unilever Nutrition Standards which are product specific targets for sodium as well as other key nutrients (energy, saturated fat and sugar). The Unilever Nutrition Standards form part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets for improving health and wellbeing (2010-2020). Since we started sodium reduction, available technologies have allowed us to globally reduce salt levels in our products by 20-30% without impairing consumers’ enjoyment of the product.

In Australia and New Zealand, Continental soup is now on average 11% lower in sodium compared to the levels in 2010. We are continually working to reduce the salt in our product portfolio even further, whilst maintaining excellent tasting products.

Unilever’s Nutrition Standards

As part of our Sustainable Nutrition Strategy which supports our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), we have committed to reducing salt levels in our foods portfolio so that by 2020 75% of our Foods portfolio will meet salt levels to enable intakes of 5g per day. This is aligned with the salt recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). Unilever is the first food company to directly link targets to WHO recommendations

Please visit the Unilever infographic which explains how we align 5g/d salt with our internal nutrition criteria (PDF | 3MB).

In 2017 61% of the Australian and New Zealand foods portfolio met the Unilever global 2020 target for salt.

References

  1. The National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) - Sodium

    https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/sodium

  2. Unilever Performance against USLP global nutrition targets in key countries 2017
  3. World Health Organisation on sodium reduction (June 2016)

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs393/en/

  4. Reducing salt in food; setting product-specific criteria aiming at a salt intake of 5 g per day, Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jul; 69(7): 799–804, M Dötsch-Klerk,1,* W PMM Goossens,1G W Meijer,1 and K H van het Hof1

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4493648/

  5. Heart Foundation Australia – salt and health

    https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition/salt

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