Salt re­duc­tion cam­paign could ben­e­fit from a sprin­kling of ad­vice on herbs

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - SHARON NA­TOLI

ANA­TIONAL pub­lic health cam­paign called Drop the Salt held an event in Syd­ney re­cently to fur­ther high­light con­cern about salt con­tent of our food.

Many Aus­tralian food com­pa­nies, re­search in­sti­tutes, in­di­vid­u­als, and non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions are be­hind the cam­paign to re­duce salt in­take from a cur­rent av­er­age of 9g per per­son daily to 6g or less within the next five years.

Ac­cord­ing to the cam­paign or­gan­is­ers this can be achieved by work­ing with the food in­dus­try to re­duce the salt con­tent of the food sup­ply, ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic, en­abling the eas­ier read­ing of la­bels and form­ing part­ner­ships with key health-re­lated or­gan­i­sa­tions and char­i­ties.

How­ever, a very rel­e­vant find­ing from the con­sumer sur­vey con­ducted as part of the cam­paign launch was that most Aus­tralians are al­ready aware that too much salt is bad for their health, and that most of it comes from pro­cessed foods. Some even read and un­der­stand what’s on a la­bel. How­ever, the real is­sue is that de­spite all this, very few of th­ese peo­ple are do­ing any­thing about it.

Along with re­duc­ing the salt con­tent of the food sup­ply, strate­gies to mo­ti­vate peo­ple to ac­tu­ally change their be­hav­iour is what’s re­ally needed to make a dif­fer­ence in this area. One of the com­plex­i­ties of the whole salt re­duc­tion cam­paign is that it fo­cuses on salt, while food la­bels don’t. They use the term

sodium’’ — the part of salt, sodium chlo­ride, that causes all the prob­lems such as high blood pres­sure, in­creased risk of kid­ney stones, stroke and heart dis­ease.

It may, there­fore, be eas­ier to change be­hav­iour and as­sist in un­der­stand­ing the salt con­tent of foods if the term salt’’ was used.

Ask­ing peo­ple to trans­late grams of salt into mil­ligrams of sodium so they know how much they’re ac­tu­ally eat­ing rel­a­tive to the tar­get in­take is prob­a­bly far too com­plex for any­one, and will only add to the al­ready dif­fi­cult process of chang­ing con­sumer be­hav­iour.

An­other chal­lenge is the per­cep­tion that salt-re­duced foods are flavour­less. Smart food com­pa­nies are get­ting around this by re­duc­ing the salt con­tent of their prod­ucts with­out ac­tu­ally telling you that they’re do­ing this.

Ideally, many com­pa­nies will work si­mul­ta­ne­ously to re­duce the salt con­tent of the to­tal food sup­ply so that the dif­fer­ences be­tween brands of the same prod­uct type will be min­i­mal and harder to de­tect.

It would be a shame to see lower-salt foods fail due to poor con­sumer ac­cep­tance.

An­other dif­fi­culty that may be faced with the whole cam­paign is the idea of drop­ping the salt’’. For lovers of meats with sea­son­ings or veg­eta­bles cov­ered in oil and salt, it can be hard to imag­ine you can achieve the same level of en­joy­ment with herbs, spices and other flavour com­bi­na­tions. How­ever, smartly match­ing the flavour of herbs with veg­eta­bles, meat, chicken, sal­ads and grain-based dishes rather than us­ing salt and salty sauces and sea­son­ings can pro­vide flavour as well as health ben­e­fits.

Cook­ing with wine or adding a splash of lemon juice can work won­ders with fish, while rose­mary is a match for pota­toes, tar­ragon with chicken and curry pow­der with eggs. Af­ter so much fo­cus on avoid­ing fat and sugar, a pos­i­tive spin on a neg­a­tive cam­paign mes­sage would be a nice change — as well as ad­vis­ing peo­ple to drop the salt we could also sug­gest they pick up the herbs. Sharon Na­toli is an ac­cred­ited prac­tis­ing di­eti­tian and di­rec­tor of Food & Nu­tri­tion Aus­tralia.

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