The devastating potential of fast and processed foods are indisputable, especially when considering the copious amounts of sodium (salt) found in these convenient products.
The Nutrition Information Centre of the University of Stellenbosch (NICUS) explains that fast food and restaurant meals contain loads of hidden salt, particularly when processed meats and cheeses are included. According to NICUS, the average pizza contains about 6.2 grams of salt, whereas The World Health Organization recommends we only consume no more than 5 grams of salt each day.
Supporting the above, the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF) of South Africa declares that the average South African eats roughly 6 to 11 grams of salt per day, exceeding the recommended daily limit.
Looking at the health implications, consuming salt in excessive amounts directly increases a person’s blood pressure. At the same time, it worsens high blood pressure in those who already have the condition. The foundation stresses this is particularly concerning for South Africans, mainly when noting that 46% of women and 44% of men aged 15 and above live with high blood pressure, and according to the HSF, a high salt intake is responsible for 1 in 2 strokes and 2 in 5 heart attacks in South Africa.
The National Center for Biotechnology of Information (NCBI) emphasises that junk food, fast food and processed foods also contribute to obesity, diabetes, dementia and cancer.
NICUS points out it can be rather tricky reducing your salt intake, as it can be found in numerous foods. “Most of the salt in our diet, up to 60%, is found in processed foods. Bread is a serious concern as it is very high in salt and consumed as a staple food in South Africa. Other culprits are margarine, butter spreads, stock cubes, soup powders, breakfast cereals and savoury snacks. The remaining 40% is added at the table.”
Cornel Joubert, a dietician at Mediclinic Potchefstroom, suggests people avoid salami, bacon and other processed meats, as well as jars of spices and herbs, biltong and droëwors. She adds potato chips, pretzels or salted popcorn, pickles and olives, soya sauce, packets of soup powder, and ready-made stocks should also be shunned.
HSF adds instead of reaching for the saltshaker, one should experiment more with ingredients such as lemon, onion, garlic, ginger, herbs, spices, and chilli to enhance the natural flavours of your food. This is also an easy way to train your tastebuds to enjoy less salty food.
Additionally, HSF encourages people to instead cook at home, opting for fresh ingredients over processed food. Moreover, the NCBI underlines a link between fast food, processed food, commercially baked goods, sweets, and brain cells’ destruction, resulting in lowered intelligence.
With this in mind, be sure to practise caution the next time you are shopping for your next meal.
Be sure to visit your local dietician for advice on cleaning up your diet.