You might not think you are eating too much salt but the chances are that you do. The Cook Club course on healthy eating that I am currently taking has been a real eye opener on how it does sneak into a lot of everyday food.
High salt intake is linked to the rise of blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension. Hypertension increases your risks of stroke and heart attack which are the leading causes of death worldwide. People with high blood pressure are three times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke and twice as likely to die from these as people with a normal blood pressure. In the UK, we eat on average 9g of salt a day and 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure.
How Much Should We Eat?
The recommended amount for an adult is no more than 6g a day, which is about 1 teaspoon. Children should eat less.
|AGE||MAXIMUM SALT INTAKE|
|0-6 months||<1g /day|
|6-12 months||1g /day|
|1-3 years||2g /day|
|4-6 years||3g /day|
|7-10 years||5g /day|
|11 years and above||6g /day|
The Hidden Salt In Our Food?
A whopping 75% of the salt we eat is hidden, by food manufacturers, in the food we buy. While some food is obviously salty like crisps, cured meats or salted nuts, we often don’t realise that it is also in other food such as bread, ready meals, stock cubes, soups, pasta sauces, stir fry sauces, pot noodles or cereals.
Prepare to be confused, label reading is a minefield. Who, amongst us, can truly claim to know or remember the healthy advice on nutritional value when doing the shopping? Here is a quick guide on what to look for:
A healthier choice
OK most of the time
|SALT||0.3g or less||0.3g – 1.5g||1.5g or more|
Personally, I find the traffic light labels very useful and simple. However, as the scheme is not mandatory, some food manufacturers prefer to keep us on our toes, so you really have to be careful and become savvy at label reading. You will, of course, come across some labels that mention sodium content instead, which might perplex you further.
This quick equation will help you solve that mystery!
SODIUM CONTENT X 2.5 = SALT CONTENT
Is anyone else screaming for standardisation yet??
Portion Size Is Key
One useful tip I have learnt on my Cook Club course is to read labels AND watch portion size. This is essential, especially with ready meals. You will often find that the label shows the amount per 100g or even for half a portion. Less often though, will you see the amount for the whole ready meal. Honestly, who eats half a lasagne? So make sure you work out how much salt there really is in a whole portion.
Easy Ways To Reduce?
There are many ways you can reduce salt in your diet. Here are some useful pointers.
- Cut down your consumption of salty snacks (such as crisps, salted nuts etc…) Eat fruit or vegetable sticks instead.
- Reduce the amount of processed food you eat.
- Eat less ready meals and takeaways by cooking more meals from scratch.
- Switch ham and cheese for a chicken, egg or vegetable filling in sandwiches.
- Cured meats and fish are high in salt. Buy unsmoked instead.
- Watch out for added salt in tinned foods (such as beans, vegetables, soups etc…)
- Boost flavours by cooking with herbs (dry and fresh) and spices.
- Add lemon or lime juice to your recipes. It will enhance the taste and you will need less salt.
- Always measure what you are adding. Don’t be too generous with the salt grinder!
- Soak salty food such as gammon before cooking it.
- Avoid placing salt and pepper grinders on the dining table.
- Learn to read labels to avoid buying products with too much hidden salt.