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Fact File - Salt

30.06.2016

Many people in the UK consume too much salt. Too much can have a negative impact on health, such as increasing the risk of blood pressure which raises the risk of health problems. This fact file focuses on where the main sources of salt within our diet come from and tips on how to reduce intake.

 

 

How much salt or sodium?

Adults should not consume more than 6g of salt (sodium chloride) or 2.4g of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt), however in the UK, the average intake is 8.1g of salt or 3.2g of sodium a day. To calculate the amount of salt from the sodium which is sometimes used on labels, use the simple formula below:

 

Salt = sodium x 2.5

 

In the UK around 75% of the salt we eat is sourced from packaged or highly processed foods, the main contributors being ready meals, bread, cheese, salty meats and breakfast cereals. Salt widely occurs naturally in vegetables and meat and we do not need to add extra into our diet unless we have high losses of salt, for example from excessive sweating or if you have been advised by your doctor or health care professional.

 

Salt and Health

A diet that is high in salt can increase blood pressure, which currently affects more than one third of adults in the UK. High blood pressure does not necessarily show any symptoms, but silently can increase the risk of health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Studies suggest that a 1.5g reduction in average daily salt intake which is currently 8.1g a day in the UK, will prevent approximately 20,000 strokes, heart attacks and heart failure, 8,500 of which are fatal in the UK every year. This is just through the reduction it has on blood pressure.

 

Cutting Down On Salt

1. Labels

Because the majority of salt is added to highly processed foods, choosing lower-salt options and reading labels can really help reduce the amount of salt in the diet:

  • Reference Intakes (RIs) provides an indication, usually as a percentage, of how much salt the product contributes towards an average daily intake. RIs also provides information for other nutrients.
  • Colour codes – food products may have colour codes (traffic light colours) to show if the food has high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) amounts of a nutrient, however the product may be low in salt (green), but it is worth checking other nutrients (fat and sugar).
  • Per 100g – if there is 1.5g salt per 100g, this is high; low is 0.3g salt or less per 100g

 

2. Adding Salt

  • By reducing the amount of salt one uses in cooking and at the table, this is a really easy way to control your intake.
  • Aim to reduce gradually and replace with other flavours, which can have benefits of their own, for example, herbs and spices such as, marjoram, parsley, thyme, ginger, cinnamon, basil, oregano, lemon, garlic and pepper.
  • Try not to get into the habit of adding salt at the table before trying food.
  • Sea salt is no better, it still adds unnecessary sodium chloride to your diet.

 

3. Cooking From Scratch

  • By cooking from fresh ingredients rather than consuming readymade meals or highly processed foods, we can be in control of our ingredients and how we flavour our food.
  • Salt is found naturally in many foods like meat and vegetables.

 

Summary

Salt directly influences blood pressure, the more you have in the diet, the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) increases. It is important to eat less salt and we can get all the salt our bodies need from natural sources. Hidden salt accounts for approximately 75% of our intake, found particularly in highly processed foods and takeaways, whilst about 25% is added in cooking or at the table. It does not take long for our taste buds to get used to less salt and we can begin to appreciate other flavours.

 

This fact file is intended for adults as a general guide only and not a substitute for professional advice or a diagnosis. If you are on certain medication or suffer from a medical condition, seek individual advice from your health care professional. Date produced February 2016.

 

For more about healthy eating please click on the boxes below. 

Are you thinking about adding something to your health and wellbeing programme? Call Anna on 07778 218009 to discuss how our Power Up & Motivate With Positive Nutrition Workplace Wellbeing Series may be of use to you. Alternatively email anna@thehealthyemployee.co.uk



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