As many of us are trying to be that little bit healthier this silly season, there are warnings about some of our popular platter items.
Aussie researchers have looked at the ingredients of almost 850 dips and 1,300 cracker varieties, and found many contain more salt than seawater. What's worse, is that several combinations have more than half the recommended daily intake of salt in a single serve.
They discovered a 16% drop in the average amount of salt in crackers since 2010 – in line with national targets for manufacturers. But they also found a concerning 14% increase in the average saltiness of dips over the same period.
The Heart Foundation's Kelly-Ann Jolly says there's no denying some are better than others.
"If you're at a Christmas party, definitely go for the tzatziki, spinach or the guacamole or avocado dip and leave the olive dips alone because they are by far the saltiest dip".
Some of those salty olive-based options contain on average 2.1g of salt per 100g. The saltiest dip, Fresh Fodder Taramosalata, contains 4.8g salt per 100g - 1.5 times saltier than sea water, and almost 400 times saltier than the least salty dip.
As for the best option overall? Pipel Avocado dip contains no salt, followed by The Olive Branch’s tuna pate (0.05g /serve), and Fresh Fodder’s Babaganoush and Yalla Tzatziki (both 0.13g/serve).
The saltiness of crackers varied from zero salt to 5.3g per 100g, with a range of unflavoured rice cakes from SunRice, Ceres Organics, Pure Harvest and Damora containing no salt. But seven different flavoured rice cakes and crackers were on the “top ten saltiest” list.
Jolly says that the average Australian was still consuming close to nine grams of salt a day – almost twice the World Health Organization recommendation of five grams a day.
“Excess salt is directly linked to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke, heart and kidney disease,” she said. “One of the best ways to keep your blood pressure down is by eating less salt.”
Dietician Jenny Reimers urged festive party hosts to visit the Unpack the Salt website before they shop to feed their friends and family. The site was launched by VicHealth and the Heart Foundation to raise awareness about the high levels of salt in processed and packaged foods.