The way you're cutting down on salt is probably wrong

Cutting down on salt by not sprinkling more at the table is probably not going to work.

Also, changing your eating habits at home by reducing salt in your home-cooked food won't be enough as well, says a new study.

What you need to do, if you are serious about cutting down on salt, is to be better at picking where you want to eat, and where you buy your groceries.

"Only 11 per cent is coming from home - from salt shaker or cooking," says Lisa Harnack, the study's lead author from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in the US.

The study found, published in the journal Circulation, found that it was sodium added to food eaten outside the home, including restaurant meals and processed foods purchased in stores, that was the main contributor.

In the study researchers found that 70.9 per cent of the daily sodium consumption came from eating outside the home (restaurants or processed food). Contrast that to 5.6 per cent of salt added during home cooking and 4.9 per cent of salt added at the table.

People really need to be reading nutrition labels and choose carefully when they eat out, says Harnack.

For a lot of Asian food, sauces and condiments are heavy in salt content.
Photo: The Star/Asia News Network

"If you're aiming to limit your sodium intake to the recommended level of less than 2,300mg per day, you'll need to choose foods wisely when grocery shopping and dining out," she adds.

"Also, if you frequently add salt to food at the table or in home food preparation, consider using less."

In Malaysia, the daily recommended intake goal follows that of the WHO, which is one teaspoon (5g) of salt or 2,000mg sodium) states the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2010.

The guideline also goes on to say that the major sources of sodium in Asian dishes are found in sauces and seasonings.

Soya sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce and prawn paste are some of the seasonings that is heavy in sodium, says the guideline.

To illustrate the point the guideline listed examples of popular Malaysian sauces and condiments that have an equivalent of 5g of salt.

6 tsp of light soya sauce

6.5 tsp of oyster sauce

6.5 tsp of cencaluk

8 tsp of budu

15 tsp of thick soya sauce / chilli sauce

21 tsp of tomato sauce

Eat at home more

A previous study has also found that those who cooked at home were healthier eaters than those who ate out more, with regularly eating home-cooked dinners associated with diets lower in calories, sugar and fat.