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Hardly any of the salt in your diet comes out of the salt shaker

9Coach logo 9Coach 13/05/2017 Sam Downing

Only about 5 percent of sodium is added at the table via the salt shaker. © Getty Images Only about 5 percent of sodium is added at the table via the salt shaker. You’re probably dimly aware we’re all eating too much sodium, but the solution seems easy: just go easy on the salt shaker at dinnertime. Except the salt shaker accounts for hardly any of the salt in your diet.

A new study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation found that restaurant food and processed food are the source of 70 percent of dietary sodium in three US regions.

Only about 5 percent of sodium is added at the table via the salt shaker. Nearly 6 percent is added during food preparation at home, while about 15 percent comes from salt found naturally in all foods and in tap water (in Australia, there’s around 20mg of sodium per litre — a tiny amount).

Australian adults (whose diets aren’t dissimilar from Americans’) are advised to eat less than 2300mg of sodium per day, equivalent to about a teaspoon of salt, to keep their blood pressure and heart health in check. Those with hypertension are advised to limit sodium to 1600mg per day.

But the average Aussie’s daily sodium consumption is thought to sit at around 2400mg — and is typically a lot higher for men.

“Telling patients to lay off the salt shaker isn’t enough,” said the study’s lead researcher Lisa J. Harnack, a professor at the University of Minnesota, in a statement.

She and her team reached their finding by polling 450 people across California, Alabama and Minnesota about their eating habits over several days. (Because the participants knew their sodium consumption was being measured, they might have changed how they ate during the course of the study.)

While limiting “salty” foods like bacon and chips will help cut back on sodium, it’s things we don’t think of as “salty” that are often the biggest sources of hidden salt in our diets: bread and wraps are the worst culprits, accounting for almost 13 percent of our daily sodium.

“If you’re aiming to limit your sodium intake to the recommended level of less than 2300 milligrams per day, you’ll need to choose foods wisely when grocery shopping and dining out,” said Harnack.

She also advised using packaged foods’ nutrition information panel to identify low sodium products: a low-salt food has less than 120mg of sodium per 100g, and over 400g per 100g is considered high salt.

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