sodium

How do I read a label?

Many people aren’t aware of how much salt they should be having in their diets.
A small amount of salt (about 1g) is important for good health to maintain the volume of blood and
fluid in the body, and this amount can be easily obtained by eating a healthy balanced diet.
However, most Australians are consuming eight to nine times this amount.

Maximum daily limits

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Eating too much salt can cause negative health impacts, such as high blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for heart disease – Australia’s number one killer.

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The World Health Organisation provides a maximum daily target for adults, which aims to reduce our population’s salt intake, preventing up to 6,000 deaths in Australia every year.

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The Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council also provides some guides for the consumption of salt in children. This is contained in the table below.

Maximum daily salt intake for the family

Salt is made up of sodium and chloride – it’s the sodium that can be bad for your health.

Click for sodium to salt conversion

How to read a label

The nutrition information panels and ingredients lists (click for example) are a good way to find out how much salt is in a product. Salt is listed as ‘sodium’. Use the ‘per 100g’ column on the nutrition information panel to compare the sodium content of different brands of products and to work out what are the best options when it comes to salt.

It can be time-consuming to check the labels, but if you know what products are likely to be high in salt, you can focus your attention on these. See our Top 10 Salt Shockers.

Salt Ready Reckoner

Adults and children

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You can also look for foods labelled ‘no-added salt’, ‘salt-free’ or ‘unsalted’ – these must not contain any added salt or any ingredient containing salt. Foods labelled low-salt or low sodium must not contain more than 120mg sodium per 100g.

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‘Salt-reduced’ foods generally have less salt compared with similar foods. However, it’s still important to read the nutrition information panel for sodium per serve as some products can still be high in salt even with a reduction. For example, salt-reduced ham should have lower sodium than regular ham, but overall it may still contain more than 400mg per serve.

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You can also download the FoodSwitch app, which you can use to scan the barcode on a food product and it will tell you the nutritional information of the product – including its salt content. It will also give you options for healthier alternatives.

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While you need to watch the salt content of some foods, it’s important to look at the food as a whole rather than deciding on one nutrient alone. Don’t forget to check the energy (kJ), sugar and saturated fat content too to make sure you are making the best choice.