Salt shake up

Salt shaker on wooden table

Do you always reach for the salt at dinner time? Do you have to add it to every meal? If so then you’re probably eating too much of the white stuff.

You’re not alone – many people in the UK still eat too much salt and this can have serious effects on our health.

So why exactly is too much salt bad for us? It’s because the amount of salt you eat has a direct effect on your blood pressure.

Salt makes your body hold on to water. If you eat too much salt, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure.

The higher your blood pressure, the greater the strain on your heart, arteries, kidneys and brain. This can lead to heart attacks, strokes, dementia and kidney disease.

Another danger is that high blood pressure often has no symptoms so people do not know that they have it.

So how much salt is too much? The maximum recommended level of salt for adults is 6g per day but the average person currently eats over 8g.

Be aware that some food labels have sodium listed rather than salt.  Adults should eat no more than 2.4g sodium per day and children even less.

75% of the salt we eat is already added in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereals and ready meals so it’s important to read labels carefully.

Salt is found in a wide range of foods, but certain culprits are nearly always high in salt. These include bacon, ham and hard cheeses.

An additional 10% of the salt we eat is added through cooking and at the table and this is where you can really make a difference.

Here are some tips to help you cut down on salt:

  • When shopping check labels and choose food that is lower in salt. High is classed as more than 1.5g salt per 100g and low is 0.3g or less per 100g
  • Remember sauces such as ketchup, mustard, soy sauce and pickles are high in salt. Opt for ones with the lowest salt content
  • If you use salt for flavour why not try alternatives such as black pepper, herbs or spices instead
  • Don’t add salt to the water you use for vegetables, pasta and rice
  • Make your own stock and gravy instead of using cubes or granules, or look out for reduced-salt products.

Remember that children need less salt than adults.  Don’t add salt to babies’ milk or food and don’t use stock cubes or gravy for babies as their kidneys can’t cope with the salt.

At first, food without salt might taste bland, but don’t give up. It’s just the same as giving up sugar in tea.

After a few weeks your taste buds will adjust and you will start to enjoy food with less salt.

Reaching for the salt pot is often just a habit and cutting it out can make a big difference to your health.

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