The Salt of the Earth

Many of us in the UK eat too much salt. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which puts you at increased risk of health problems such as heart disease and stroke. But a few simple steps can help you to cut your salt intake.

Just because you may not be adding salt to your food, doesn’t mean you’re not eating too much. 75% of the salt we eat is already in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals.

A diet that is high in salt can cause raised blood pressure, which around one third of adults in the UK already have.  High blood pressure often has no symptoms. But if you have it, you are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.  Cutting down on salt reduces blood pressure, which means that your risk of developing stroke or heart disease is reduced.

Some foods are almost always high in salt because of the way they are made.

Other foods, such as bread and breakfast cereals, can add a lot of salt to our diet, but not because these foods are high in salt; it’s because we eat a lot of them.

These foods are almost always high in salt. To cut down on salt, eat them less often or have smaller amounts:

  • anchovies
  • bacon
  • cheese
  • gravy granules
  • ham
  • olives
  • pickles
  • prawns
  • salami
  • salted and dry roasted nuts
  • salt fish
  • smoked meat and fish
  • soy sauce
  • stock cubes
  • yeast extract

In these foods, the salt content can vary widely depending on brands or varieties.  By comparing brands and reading nutrition labels and choosing the one that is lower in salt, you can cut down on salt.

These foods include:

  • bread products such as crumpets, bagels and ciabatta
  • pasta sauces
  • crisps
  • pizza
  • ready meals
  • soup
  • sandwiches
  • sausages
  • tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and other sauces
  • breakfast cereals

How much salt should we consume?

Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day: that’s around one full teaspoon.

One easy way to eat less salt is to stop adding salt to your food at the dinner table. You can add salt to your food when cooking, but when you sit down to eat, taste your food first to see if it needs salt.

Babies and children under 11 should have less salt than adults.

Babies under a year old need less than 1g of salt a day, as their kidneys can’t cope with more. If a baby is breastfed, he or she will get the right amount of salt from breast milk. Formula milk contains a similar amount.

Never add salt to your baby’s milk or food, and don’t give food that isn’t specifically for babies as it’s often too high in salt.

Note, you don’t want to cut out salt completely as our bodies do need some salt. Every cell of your body contains salt and an adult human body contains about 250g to maintain the normal volume of blood and digest food.

Salt is so essential to the body that if you drink too much water it can flush it out of your system and cause fatal Hyponatremia. This is what killed Jennifer Strange who entered a “Hold your wee for a wii” competition.

Good quality sea salt contains many essential minerals for the body. The best type of sea salt should be slightly wet from the sea it was taken from.

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