Eating too much salt leads to high blood pressure, or hypertension, also known as the ‘silent killer’. It gets this nickname as most people don’t have any symptoms of their high blood pressure. High blood pressure causes a higher risk of heart disease and stroke in later life. A high salt diet also increases your risk of stomach cancer, kidney disease, osteoporosis, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.
Simple diet and lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your risks of developing these chronic diseases. Salt is found in most foods. In fact, 75% of the salt we eat is already in the foods we buy. Processed foods, such as ready meals, pizza, pasta sauces, curry sauces, sausages, ham, and bacon are often very high in salt. This means its all too easy to have a high salt intake. The average daily salt intake in the UK is 8.1 grams – higher than the recommended maximum of 6g per day.
The Department of Health estimates that reducing salt intakes by just 1g per day would save 4,147 preventable deaths and £288 million to the NHS every year.
Tips to reduce your salt intake
The best way to help you cut down your salt intake is to cook fresh food from scratch whenever you can. These simple guidelines will help you to cut down when cooking at home:
- -Try not to add salt at the table or during cooking – and remember to taste your food first
- -Remember, sea salt, rock salt and garlic salt are just as harmful as table salt and cooking salt
- -Avoid salty cooking sauces such as ready made cooking sauces and tomato ketchup
- -Instead of salt, use fresh, frozen or dried herbs, spices, chilli, garlic, pepper, vinegar or lemon juice to add flavour
- -Choose lower salt stocks
Reading food labels, avoiding high salt foods and choosing naturally low-salt foods, will also help you to cut down.
Reading food labels
The government have now launched a consistent style of front of pack nutrition labelling, which has been adopted by most major supermarkets in the UK. This labelling system combines colour coding with nutritional information, making it much easier and quicker for us to check whether our food is low in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt.
Colour coded labelling makes it easy to see at a glance if a product is high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) in certain nutrients, including salt. The amount of these nutrients in grams per serving is also stated. Products which are green can be eaten freely and amber products are usually fine, but you should try to limit the number of red products that you eat.
For more see our guide to reading food labels.
Foods high in salt
Bacon, sausages, ham, cheese, chicken nuggets, crisps, smoked meats and fish, stock cubes, tomato ketchup, some breakfast cereals, baked beans and biscuits.
Foods low in salt
Breakfast cereals (with no added salt), fresh fish, fresh meat and poultry, fruit and vegtables, porridge oats, yoghurt, unsalted nuts, pulses, rice, wholemeal pasta.
This app is designed to help shoppers identify how much fat, sugar and salt is in foods they buy and also suggests healthier alternatives.
The SaltSwitch filter in the app has been designed to help people lower their salt intake and is great for people with, or being treated for, high blood pressure.