Next week sees the start of the 18th National Salt Awareness Week from the 20th to the 27th March 2017.
So what are some of the first things that come to mind when we think about salt? It adds flavour to food, helps preserve food, supports fluid regulation in the body? Few might link salt to increased risk of high blood pressure which is the main cause of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure! As salt is made of sodium chloride, it is the ‘sodium’ in the salt that increases our blood pressure and therefore our risk of heart disease.
How much salt do we need?
While we do need some sodium in our diet to help regulate fluid in the body, we tend to get enough on a daily basis to support this. Most people are eating far too much salt in their diet. The average person is currently consuming 8.1g of salt per day. The recommendation is to reduce salt intake to 6g per day for adults (about 1 level teaspoon). People with or considered at risk of high blood pressure should take extra care to ensure they keep their salt intake below the recommended maximum of 6g. A recent survey showed that 70% of participants had a daily intake of salt higher than the recommended maximum.
For every one gram of salt we cut from our average daily intake there would be 6,000 fewer deaths from strokes and heart attacks each year in the UK.
Over 40% of strokes could be prevented by tacking high blood pressure.
Where does salt come from in our diet?
Most of the salt that we eat (75%) comes from the foods that we buy so manufactured and processed foods. Foods such as crisps, bacon, ham, sausages and other meat products, ready meals and ready prepared sauces are particularly high in salt. If you routinely take an effervescent (dissolvable) vitamin supplement, it’s worth remembering that these can contain up to 1g salt per tablet.
We ensure as Registered Nutritionist salt awareness is a key part of our role and we support those we work with in making healthier choices and reducing their salt intake. Here are some of our top tips:
Try to get into the habit of reading the nutrition information on food labels. Below is a guide to help you decide whether a food you have chosen is high or low in salt.
A lot or a little per 100g
A LOT A LITTLE
1.5g salt 0.3g salt
0.6g sodium 0.1g sodium
Even small changes can have a positive impact on reducing your salt intake, please see the example below.
Other practical ways to reduce salt intake include using the Change4Life’s Be Food Smart App which is free to download and helps you make healthier food choices by cutting down on fat, salt and sugar. By scanning the barcode of different food and drink products it allows you to compare the ingredients in different brands and select the healthiest options. It also features a food detective activity for children and mini missions for the whole family to enjoy.
CASH (Consensus Action on Salt & Health) has a selection of posters, leaflets and factsheets available for you to download or to order.
For more information on salt and health you can visit www.actiononsalt.org.uk @CASHSALT #LessSaltPlease