There is scientific evidence that the current salt intake in Europe is an important factor for hypertension and, consequently, cardiovascular disease, and increased risk of developing some types of cancer, renal overload, and increased fluid retention.
Portugal is one of the European countries with a higher mortality rate due to cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke, with high blood pressure being one of the most relevant risk factors.
The high national prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease demands emphasis on effective prevention. It also demands the adoption of combined and complementary measures in order to reduce the risk of developing these diseases and optimize their treatment, and the adoption of measures of secondary prevention to reduce recurrence in the Portuguese population.
Several studies show an excessive intake of salt-rich foods in Portugal. For that reason, it is important to establish public health measures, aimed at the population, in order to help reduce the risk of CVA (stroke).
In Portugal, the amount of salt present in the diet is roughly double the recommended by the World Health Organization; therefore, it is urgent to gradually reduce salt intake in this population.
In addition to bread, many other food contribute to the high salt intake in the Portuguese population. Scientific data from the European Food Safety Authority state that the main sources of sodium in the diet are processed foods, which can represent 70 to 75% of total salt intake.
Tips to reduce salt at the table:
The high prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease in Portugal demand special attention on its prevention. These practical tips can help consumers reduce their salt intake:
- Gradually reduce the amount of salt added when cooking meals;
- Don’t keep a salt shaker at the table
- Swap the salt used when cooking for herbs (e.g. parsley, mint, coriander, oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc.), spices (pepper, paprika, turmeric, nutmeg, curry powder, etc.) or lemon juice
- Read food labels carefully, compare products, and choose those with the least amount of sodium (Na)
- Avoid eating salt-rich foods such as chips/crisps, savory snacks, sausages, instant soups, canned food, charcuterie and smoked foods, certain types of cheese, olives, and sauces.