PRO­CESSED food warn­ing

New Zealan­ders need to be more vig­i­lant about the amount of salt they are get­ting from pro­cessed foods, writes Heart Foun­da­tion head of nu­tri­tion DA VID MONRO . The warn­ing fol­lows the re­cent World Salt Aware­ness Week.

New Zealand Fitness - - BRAIN GYM -

Pro­cessed foods cur­rently con­trib­ute around 75 per cent of New Zealan­ders’ salt (sodium) in­take. Bread is the largest con­trib­u­tor, fol­lowed by pro­cessed meats such as sausages, ba­con and ham.

Sauces, cheese and break­fast ce­re­als can also be high in salt. This last point of­ten comes as a com­plete sur­prise to peo­ple, given that ce­re­als and also breads don’t have a no­tice­able salt taste.

New Zealand’s salt in­take is cur­rently around 9g – just over one tea­spoon a day – which is above the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s rec­om­men­da­tion of 5g a day. High salt in­take has proven links with high blood pres­sure which in­creases the risk of peo­ple de­vel­op­ing heart dis­ease – New Zealand’s big­gest killer.

In light of pro­cessed foods’ con­tri­bu­tion to salt in­take, food com­pa­nies can play an im­por­tant role in help­ing to re­duce lev­els.

Many food com­pa­nies have em­braced sodium re­duc­tion as an im­por­tant ini­tia­tive and have worked to re­duced lev­els, ac­cord­ingly, with­out com­pro­mis­ing taste.

Good ex­am­ples of this in­clude an ap­prox­i­mate 20 per cent drop in sodium lev­els of lead­ing breads, a third less sodium in pop­u­lar chil­dren’s break­fast ce­re­als and pos­i­tive sodium re­duc­tions in pro­cessed meats like sausages. These changes have oc­curred slowly over the past 10 years and equate to over 200 tonnes of salt (per an­num) be­ing re­moved from tar­geted food prod­ucts.

While many food com­pa­nies have been mak­ing some good changes, more work is needed across the food sup­ply chain, in­clud­ing fast food out­lets, cafés and restau­rants.

If peo­ple want to make sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tions they need to opt for more whole foods and less pro­cessed prod­ucts. This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for chil­dren who can de­velop a pref­er­ence for salt over time.

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