How to spot and avoid hidden salt
There's a lot of fuss about the dangers of hidden salt. But where's it hiding? Nutritionist Hannah Brinsden from our friends Consensus Action on Salt & Health explains.
Eating too much salt is bad for our health. It puts up our blood pressure and raised blood pressure (hypertension) is the major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) which includes strokes and heart attacks, the leading causes of death and disability in the UK.
CVD accounts for nearly 30% of deaths in men (NICE, 2010) many of which could have been prevented by eating less salt.
There is also increasing evidence of a link between high salt intake and stomach cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, kidney stones and kidney disease. Because of the wide range of conditions linked to salt, it is vital that everyone thinks about ways that they can lower their salt intake.
How much salt should I eat?
If you don’t add salt to your food it’s easy to think that you don’t eat too much. The problem is that THREE QUARTERS (75%) of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy (NHS, 2011).
The maximum recommendation of salt for adults is 6g of salt per day – about a teaspoon worth (NHS, 2011). People in the UK are currently eating an average of 8.6g of salt per day, with young men having more than 10g (MRC, 2008)
The result is that the amount of salt that men have over their lifetime is the equivalent of about 365 pints of salt (9.7g per day over 59.7 adult years)
Where is the hidden salt?
The 75% of the salt we eat that is already in the food that we buy is often in places you’d never expect.
Everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, ready meals, processed meat and sauces all contain salt. Some surprisingly salty foods include table sauces such as ketchups and mustard, paté, soup, Marmite, pickles, cheese and baked beans.
Food eaten out in restaurants, takeaways and canteens is often salty, with some meals containing more than your maximum daily recommendation.
How do I eat less salt?
Reducing your salt intake doesn’t need to be difficult. You may think foods taste bland at first try but keep going. It takes just 3 weeks for your taste buds adjust to lower salt foods. Simple swaps can make a big difference, for instance swapping a takeaway meal for a ready meal could save you up to 10g (CASH, 2010)
See below for some tips on reducing your salt intake, as well as your fat intake.
Any other suggestions?
- Cook more at home. Try not to add any salt, there are plenty of other flavours you can use such as black pepper, herbs, spices, garlic, chilli and lemon juice.
- Check food labels to make sure you are choosing lower salt options particularly for items you buy on a regular basis such as bread, cereal and cheese.
- Download the CASH low salt shopping guide to help you easily know what foods to eat more of and those to limit.
- If you can, ask for ‘less salt please!’ when you are eating out of the home
Watch out. Salt can easily add up throughout the day, but with simple changes and cheats it’s perfectly easy to reduce your salt intake to help lower your blood pressure and therefore your risk of strokes and heart attacks, as well as a number of other health conditions.
- More from Consensus Action on Salt & Health
Page created on March 25th, 2012
Page updated on March 25th, 2012