Salt

 SALT from Rosemary Bonney, Dietitian

 

Our bodies need a small amount of salt for vital processes such as muscle contractions and maintaining fluid balance. We are told that eating too much salt is bad for us, but why it is bad and how we can eat less is not always clear. This month I will look at the risks of eating too much salt and ways to reduce our salt intake.

Eating too much salt increases the chance of developing high blood pressure (hypertension) which is a risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. A lower salt intake can help counteract the rise in blood pressure that naturally occurs with age.

The UK guideline recommends no more than 6g salt per day.  The average daily salt intake in the UK is about 8.1g (one and a half teaspoons).  Some of the salt we eat comes from the salt we use in cooking, and some from the salt we add at the table.  About 75%, however, is in processed foods like meat products, crisps, biscuits, ready meals, pasta sauces, bread and some breakfast cereals.  Salt is also found naturally in many foods like meat and vegetables and we can get all the salt our bodies need from natural sources and we don’t need to add it to our food.

The following guidelines on food labels can help us reduce our salt intake:

  • A food high in salt has more than 1.5g salt per 100g
  • A food with medium salt content is between 0.3g and 1.5g salt per 100g.
  • A low salt food is 0.3g salt or less per 100g.
Some examples:
High Salt Choices Salt g Low Salt Choices Salt g
Ready-made curry meal (onion bhaji, 2 curries, pilau rice, naan bread)

Baked beans, 2 slices toast, spread

2 rashers back bacon

40g smoked salmon

40g crisps

5.5

 

2.0

1.7

1.7

0.6

Thai red lentil dahl (onion, tomatoes, garlic) rice and naan bread

Muesli, blueberries, semi-skimmed milk

Porridge oats

1 large egg

20g almonds

 

0.75

 

0.2

<0.01

0.15

0

 

General steps to reduce our salt intake include less processed foods, being aware of food labels and choosing lower salt options.  Early intervention will help all of us reduce the risks of developing high blood pressure. As with any diet modification, planning and preparation will help to keep us on track. For further advice contact a Dietitian.  An excellent selection of lower salt recipes can also be found on the Consensus for Action on Salt and Health (CASH) website.

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