During pregnancy, a certain amount of salt is necessary for the health and development of your growing baby and yourself, and while you should watch how much salt you have in your daily diet, we don’t recommended that you cut it out completely. If you limit your salt intake to 1 teaspoon (5g) a day, and no more, then that’s a safe amount, and it will help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure and other hypertensive disorders, for example pre-eclampsia, during pregnancy.
The reason why it’s so important to manage your salt intake, is that too much salt and high blood pressure during pregnancy can affect your baby’s blood pressure, cause water retention, and result in pre-eclampsia. When this happens, blood flow to the uterus is reduced, and the placenta doesn’t grow to the optimal size. This means that the baby doesn’t receive the nutrients it needs, and its growth and size might be affected.
Pregnant women often experience cravings for salty foods, and it is thought that some reasons for this could be because:
- Morning sickness can deplete your sodium levels
- An increase in progesterone levels during the first 3 months can cause you to lose more sodium in your urine- and your cravings could be your body’s way of trying to replace it
To help overcome these cravings:
- Rather than adding salt, use fresh and dried herbs and spices when cooking, to enhance the natural flavours of your food
- Prepare and eat more home-cooked meals made from scratch, instead of ready-made meals, takeaways and convenience foods – which are usually packed with salt. When you make your own food, you have more control over how much salt is added to the meal
- Watch out for salty snacks, such as chips, salted nuts or biltong, and rather stock up on healthier snacks such as yoghurt, fruit or raw unsalted nuts.
- If you do give into temptation and cravings, try to make sure you only do it once or twice a week, to avoid overindulgence.
The nationwide Salt Watch campaign is an initiative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa.