Salt Awareness Week - ‘shake your habits’ | Western Cape Government

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Salt Awareness Week - ‘shake your habits’

9 March 2022

If you find yourself craving salty foods such as potato chips or a large bowl of popcorn, it could be tied to your health or other factors, such a stress or boredom.

While our bodies require a small amount of salt to function, too much salt (high sodium consumption) can contribute to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. An estimated 2.5 million deaths could be prevented each year if global salt consumption were reduced to the recommended level, according to the World Health Organization.

To mark Salt Awareness Week (8 – 14 March), Joy Williams, a dietician at Symphony Way Community Day Centre, has challenged residents to “shake your habits” in line with this year’s Salt Awareness Week theme.

Joy shares that salt addiction is possible and that there are many reasons you could be craving salt.

“Yes, salt addiction is possible. Our bodies need salt for survival, but salt is also characterised as an addictive substance, therefore some people crave salt.” You could also crave salt due to a sodium imbalance.

Joy has shared other possible causes of salt addiction or cravings. These include:

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive sweating
  • Other medical conditions. Salt cravings accompanied with other symptoms could be used to diagnose other medical conditions.


Sodium is found naturally in a variety of foods, such as milk and meat. It is often found in high amounts in processed foods such as breads, processed meat and snack foods, as well as in condiments (e.g. soy source, fish source).

Most people consume too much salt—on average 9–12 grams per day, or around twice the recommended maximum level of intake, according to WHO.

Salt intake of less than 5 grams per day (just under a teaspoon) for adults helps to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack. The principal benefit of lowering salt intake is a corresponding reduction in high blood pressure.


There are easy ways you can cut down on your salt consumption every day. Joy has shared 4 tips:

1. Cook with less salt

“Try avoid using spices, soups and sauces when preparing food. Instead, use herbs, lemon, garlic, ginger, vinegar, onions and chilli to add flavor to your food. These contain less sodium and are healthier options. If you decide to use some spice, avoid adding salt or sauces as well.”

2. Remove the saltshaker at the dinner table

”Avoid adding salt to your meals at the dinner table. This is a bad habit and can be avoided if it is out of sight. Taste your food before you add extra salt.”

3. Decrease the consumption of foods high in sodium

”Sodium is naturally occurring in foods. Avoid foods which contain excessive amount of added sodium, such as, processed meats, preserved or tinned food, salty sandwich spreads and sauces, margarine, chips and salted nuts.”

4. Read food labels before purchasing food

“Salt is displayed as sodium on food labels. Try to read food labels before you purchase a product. Opt for foods containing <120mg/100g sodium and avoid foods containing >600mg/100g sodium.”


A balanced diet is important to maintain a good physical and mental health, says Joy.

“A balanced diet includes all food groups in your diet, these food groups include starch, protein, fat, fruit, and vegetables. Portion control is essential to eat balanced meals and maintain a healthy BMI. Follow these practical guides to assist you with portion control in your diet.”

Portion your plate according to the ‘Plate Model’ where:

  • ½ of your plate consists of non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots etc.
  • ¼ of your plate consists of high fiber starches such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sweet potato, butternut.
  • ¼ of your plate consists of lean protein such as grilled skinless chicken, fish, lean mince, ostrich meat, soya.

Or use the “Zimbabwean Hand Jive” as a guide to portion your meals

  • Palm = 1 portion of protein (meat/fish/poultry).
  • Closed fist = 1 portion of carbohydrates (grains & starches).
  • Thumb = 1 portion (tablespoon) of fat-heavy foods (peanut butter).
  • Cupped hands = 1 portion of fruit or vegetables.

If you need healthcare support, remember that dietetic services can be accessed for free at all our primary healthcare facilities (day hospitals), City of Cape Town clinics, as well as our NPOs via home visits. You can also inquire at your local day hospital about diabetic support groups in your community. 

For more information, download the Salt and your health pamphlet