glass salt shaker spilling on table

Salt: The hidden ingredient lurking in your food

Our bodies need small amounts of salt, also known as sodium chloride, to help control our balance of fluids and support nerve and muscle function. However, eating too much salt can raise blood pressure which can put a strain on the heart, kidney and brain. This leads to an increased risk of health problems like heart disease, strokes and heart attacks. Cutting down on the salt you eat could help reduce the long-term effects on your health.

How much salt should we consume?

Adults should eat less than 6 grams of salt a day Current Food Standards Agency guidelines advise that adults should eat less than 6 grams of salt a day. This is about one teaspoon and includes salt that you add during cooking and at the table as well as salt “hiding” in processed food.

Foods that are high in salt

To help you cut down, here’s a list of high-salt foods to look out for based on surveys [1] carried out by Consensus Action on Salt & Health: Bread A lot of us start the day with a couple of slices of toast, not knowing that some bread contains particularly high levels of salt. Although the salt content of some of ready-sliced loaves has been reduced, two slices of bread can hold 1g of salt. Tinned Soup Most of us have a tin or two of soup in the cupboard, but if you’re cutting down on salt you may prefer your own homemade recipe. A tin of tomato soup can contain 2.2g of salt, which is just over a third of an adult's RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of salt. However, different brands often have different salt levels so check food labels and choose reduced salt versions. Ready-made salad On the surface, these may seem like a healthy option, but a closer look at the labels of some salads reveals otherwise. Some supermarket salads can contain as much as 3g of salt in each portion whilst salads in some popular restaurants were packed with up to 5g of salt. Sausages A staple part of a Full English breakfast, just two sausages could be hiding almost half of your daily salt allowance with over 1g of salt in each sausage. Check the labels, choose lower salt options and keep in mind that condiments like ketchup and brown sauce can also include high levels of salt. Popcorn Often touted as a healthier option to salt-laden crisps and salted nuts, over a third of flavoured packets of popcorn actually contain more salt than a packet of crisps. As well as reading food labels, why not make your own popcorn at home flavoured with cinnamon or chilli flakes. Takeaway Pizza With as much as 16g of salt in some takeaway pizzas, if you’re set on a delivery, avoid salty toppings like pepperoni, ham and bacon in favour of vegetables.

Handpicked content: Potato and roasted garlic pizza

What about processed foods? Sauces, tins, frozen foods, etc.

How to reduce your daily salt intake

Take these simple steps to help you to reduce your salt intake:
  • Check salt levels using nutrition labels.
  • Go for lower or reduced salt options.
  • Reduce the frequency of eating foods known to be high in salt
  • Prepare meals from scratch, so you know how much salt in is there
Consuming too much salt raises blood pressure and can put a strain on the heart, but unless we pay attention to the food we eat the salt levels in our diet can add up in no time.

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[1] http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/less/surveys/index.html

Related Topics

Nutrition