Eating too much salt is linked to high blood pressure, which is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. 7th-15th June is British Heart Week, so take care of yours by reducing the amount of salt in your diet.
Did you know that adults are only supposed to eat six grams of salt in a day? That’s about one teaspoon, and it’s worryingly easy to eat more than this. Around half of us don’t keep track of the amount of salt in our diets1 meaning you may be eating too much salt without even realising it.
British Heart Week is from 7th to 15th June and its aim is to raise awareness of heart health. Our guide to healthy salt consumption is designed to help you take better care of your heart – read on for advice on why salt is bad and how to eat less of it.
Why is salt bad?
The World Health Organisation has some sobering things to say about salt consumption. In the fight against heart disease, reducing the amount of salt we eat is just as important as stopping smoking2. This is because high salt consumption is strongly linked to high blood pressure, which increases your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. As if that wasn’t bad enough, eating too much salt also puts you at greater risk of stomach cancer and osteoporosis2.
Recent research has demonstrated a clear link between salt intake and high blood pressure. The evidence showed that the amount of salt consumed per person fell from 9.5 grams to 8.1 grams and that incidence of high blood pressure declined correspondingly3. While it’s good news that we’re eating less salt on average, the average intake is still higher than the recommended daily limit.
How much is too much?
Adults and children aged 11 and older should restrict their salt intake to six grams per day, which is around one teaspoon. Children aged 11 or younger should eat less, according to their age1.
It is easy to get salt and sodium confused – food packets use these two words interchangeably to mean the same thing. While you can use either to talk about how much salt is in your food, they are measured differently. 2.5 grams of salt is the same as one gram of sodium, meaning you can measure your daily salt allowance as six grams of salt or as 2.4 grams of sodium4.
You should check the labels of all the food you eat to check how much salt it contains – and be sure to find the ‘per serving’ figure. Pre-prepared and processed food is much higher in salt than fresh food such as fruits and vegetables. Around three-quarters of the salt we eat is added to food before we buy it6. Well-known culprits such as takeaways are high in salt, but the added salt in everyday foods such as bread can quickly add up to push your intake above six grams.
Tips for reducing your salt intake
There are easy steps you can take to reduce the amount of salt you eat, both by buying foods with less added salt and by reducing the amount you add yourself.
1. Take salt off the table
Many people add salt to their food as a habit, and because it’s an acquired taste they are used to heavy seasoning. Once you refresh your palette and start getting used to tasting your food without adding salt, you won’t miss it5.
2. Experiment with seasoning
By relying on salt for flavour, we miss out on a world of other tastes from other seasoning such as pepper, lemon, herbs, garlic and spices.
3. Shop with care
Opt for low-salt versions of store cupboard ingredients such as tomato ketchup, soy sauce and stock cubes. In restaurants, ask for sauces to be served on the side so you can add only the amount that you want.
4. Avoid takeaways
Fast food and convenience meals typically have a huge amount of salt added to them. For example, a pizza can contain six grams – meaning you consume a full day’s allowance in one meal1.
5. Make your own
It’s always a good idea to make your own meals so that you can control what is going into them. Make your own pasta sauce by simmering ripe tomatoes with garlic and herbs instead of buying ready-made jars loaded with salt.
6. Check your tablets
If you take a dissolvable vitamin supplement or painkiller regularly, you may not realise that these can contain up to 1g of salt per tablet. If you are trying to reduce your salt intake, switching to a solid tablet that you swallow with water is an easy step6.
If you’re concerned about your salt consumption you can book a dietary consultation to get in-depth advice on how to eat more healthily.
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