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Salt in the diet

Salt in the diet

by FoodMaestro | 7 November 2016

Salt in the diet

By: Rhiannon Lewis (Student Dietitian)

Why do we eat salt?

Well, for starters our body needs some salt to survive and we acquire a taste for this in the food we eat. The problem is that we are having more than we need which is bad for our health.

Why is salt bad for our health?

A good majority of people know that salt has a negative effect on our health but how many know why? Many of us know that it can increase blood pressure which can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease but can you think of any more health risks associated with a high salt intake? I’m not sure what proportion of the UK population knows that it also increases our risk of developing osteoporosis, stomach cancer, obesity, kidney stones and kidney disease – did you?

What are the recommendations about salt in our diet?

The current average intake of salt in the UK is estimated to be approximately 8.1g per day. The guidelines in the UK currently recommend for a consumption of less than 6g of salt per day and there are public health initiatives which aim to reduce the UK’s average intake of salt per day to less than 3g by 2025.

Isn’t sea salt/rock salt better than table salt?

Salt is salt; whether that comes from the sea or rocks. It also doesn’t make it any better for our health by having salt in the form of crystals instead of grains. What matters is what it is made from. Table salt, sea salt and rock salt are all made up of sodium and chloride. It is the amount of sodium from salt in our diet which can put our health at risk.

So what about potassium salts?

Potassium replaces most of the sodium in this type of salt. As there is less sodium these salts don’t have the same high risks to our health and can be used in the same way as sodium salts.

How could I go about reducing my salt intake?

It is important to remember that a drastic reduction in your salt intake is unlikely to be enjoyable as your food may taste bland. This is because we acquire a taste for it. However, over time if we gradually reduce our salt intake our tastes can adapt and adjust to a lower amount.

It is important to know how much is in the foods you are buying so be aware of savoury snacks and foods typically high in salt such as crisps, popcorn, crackers, chutneys, salted nuts, bread and wraps including naan bread, butter and some salad dressings, breakfast cereals and biscuits.

10 practical ways to cut the amount of salt in your diet:

  1. Skip the table salt, just add it during cooking if you must or use potassium salts instead.
  2. Stack up the flavour using pepper, herbs and spices instead of salt.
  3. Cut down the amount of ready meals you eat.
  4. Look for food with the green label for salt on the front of the pack containing less than 0.3g of salt per 100g or just check the nutrition label on the back of the pack.
  5. Avoid food with a red label for salt on the front of the pack containing more than 1.5g of salt per 100g or check the back of pack nutrition label.
  6. Even better would be to look for no added salt products. E.g. ready meals and stock cubes.
  7. Make your own sauces and soups. E.g. pasta sauce and curry.
  8. Reduce the amount of cheese in your diet. Remember: one portion of cheese is the same size as a small matchbox.
  9. Reduce the amount of processed meats in your diet. E.g. bacon, chorizo and sausages.
  10. Use olive oil instead of butter for cooking.