Salt

Web Resource Last Updated: 06-08-2020

Contents

The impact of eating too much salt

Eating too much salt can increase your blood pressure, particularly if you are overweight or if high blood pressure runs in your family. High blood pressure increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease.

It is important to know that as we get older, our risk of high blood pressure increases. If you have diabetes you also have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, so it is important to manage your salt intake even if your blood pressure is currently normal.

Recommended amounts

Most people eat far more salt than they need, with the average adult in the UK consuming 8 g of salt each day. It is recommended that you eat a maximum of 6 g of salt per day (equal to 2.4 g of sodium), which is about one level teaspoon.

Remember that it is not just the salt that you add to your food that is included in this amount. Many foods already contain high amounts of salt, particularly processed foods.

Sources of salt

Most of the food we eat already has salt added, which means that it can be difficult to tell how much salt you are actually eating. The following are examples of food items with salt added:

  • Crisps
  • Salted popcorn
  • Salted nuts
  • Ready-made sauces
  • Ready meals
  • Tinned fish in brine

You may be surprised to find how much salt is in everyday foods that don’t taste salty, such as cereals, biscuits, breads and cakes. If you eat a lot of these foods, the amount of salt can easily add up.

Food labels

The amount of salt will vary between brands and varieties, so it is important to check the food labels on packaging carefully. The nutritional information will help you make healthy and informed choices.

When you look at a food label you may see salt written as ‘sodium’. This is just another way of describing the salt content. You can work out how much salt is in the food by doing this calculation:

Salt = Sodium (in grams) x 2.5

If you’re eating pre-prepared food, e.g. a pizza, tinned soup or ready meal, look at the amount per serving to see how much salt is in one serving or portion of the food. It is important to remember that the manufacturer’s idea of a portion may differ from yours, so make sure that the portion you are eating is the same as what is suggested on the food label. The table below will help you work out whether the amount of salt in what you are eating is excessive.

Some food labels will use traffic-light colours (red, yellow and green) which can help you make the right choices.

Table 1: How Much Is Too Much? 

 

Low

Medium

High

Salt

0–0.3 g

0.3–1.5 g

More than 1.5 g

Sodium

0–0.1 g

0.1–0.6 g

More than 0.6 g

 

Strategies to eat less salt

  • Check the nutritional information on food labels and pick lower-salt options.
  • Add less salt when cooking.
  • Don't add salt to your food at the table.
  • As you get used to the taste of food without salt, cut it out completely.
  • Use different flavours as an alternative to salt, e.g. black pepper, mixed spices, herbs, lemon juice, garlic, chilli. Salt substitutes such as LoSalt are not recommended.
  • Eat more fresh food and less processed foods, such as tinned and packet foods.
  • If you are following a recipe try using less salt than given in the ingredients.
  • Limit takeaway meals, such as Indian and Chinese, as these often have very high salt levels.

Useful resources

The following sites will give you useful information on high blood pressure and how to cut down on salt:

https://www.bhf.org.uk/publications/healthy-eating-and-drinking/cut-down-on-salt

https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/hypertension-diet.html

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