Restrictions on the amount of salt in bread, meats and sauces and a tax on junk food should be introduced to help Kiwis lower their salt intake, a University of Otago study has suggested.
The study, published by the department of public health at the university's Wellington campus, also found New Zealanders could achieve a low salt diet on a budget of $9 a day.
Researchers analysed eight potential diets selected for low salt content, all of which should cost less than $9 a day to make.
The diets largely excluded processed meats, which are one of the main sources of salt in diets, but did include meals such as porridge and mince on toast.
The two lowest salt diets were those based on Mediterranean and Asian foods, which researchers put down to more use of vegetables and fruit.
The Asian diet did not include soy and other high-salt sauces.
A typical New Zealand meat-based diet, including sausages for dinner, had 1641 milligrams of sodium a day.
However, it still had less than the recommended upper limit for salt consumption, of 2300 milligrams.
The average daily salt consumption for a Kiwi man is 4013 milligrams a day, almost twice the recommended intake. The salt is hidden in foods including bread, processed meat and sauces.
Excessive salt consumption is linked to high blood pressure and an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Associate Professor Nick Wilson, the study's lead author, said while the research showed it was possible to have a low-salt diet by making the right choices, it would be easier to achieve if Government restricted the amount of salt in everyday products.
"It could do this by regulating down the maximum level of salt permitted in commercially produced foods, particularly in bread, processed meats and sauces,'' he said.
"A tax on junk food would also help as such food is usually high in salt as well as sugar and saturated fat. The money from such a tax could then fund healthy school lunches and help pay for better health services for diseases caused by high salt - especially stroke and heart attacks."
The study was published in the international journal PLOS: ONE.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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