What is salt?
Salt is a chemical compound made up of sodium and chlorine. It's been used in food preparation for thousands of years, for flavour and to help preserve foods. Too much sodium from salt in the diet has been linked with increased blood pressure and hypertension, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack.
Sodium in food
Sodium is a commonly occurring element. While most of the sodium in our food comes from salt, sodium is found naturally in virtually all foods that we eat, even when they don't have added salt.
When the nutrients in foods are analysed the sodium content from all sources (i.e. naturally occurring sodium, sodium from food additives and sodium from added salt) is determined, not the amount of salt in a food, as this would underestimate total sodium content.
What are the recommended sodium intakes?
The Australian and New Zealand governments recommend adults eat around 2,000 mg of sodium per day (equivalent to about 5,000 mg or 5 g of salt or 1 teaspoon). The Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults and the Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults recommend choosing foods low in salt.
Is sodium identified on food labels?
Salt and sodium-containing additives must be identified in the ingredients list on food labels. The total sodium content of packaged foods (including naturally occurring sodium, sodium from additives and added salt) must also be declared on the Nutrition Information Panel on the food label. Many quick service restaurants also provide this information at the point of sale.