Salt has been shown to increase our risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease and that the recommended daily amount should be 5g to 6g for adults (around 1 teaspoon). Now, the thought of sprinkling that much salt over your meals might seem impossible but unfortunately, as much as 85% of our daily salt intake comes from salt hidden in processed foods. If the FDA’s proposed 10 year targets are reached it could reduce US sodium intake by around a third and aims to create reductions in the salt content of some foods by as much as 67%. The main targets are sauces including dry sauce mixes and food in sauces such as beans for example, ready-made salads, crisps and bakery products such as waffles and frozen pancakes.
Currently UK salt intake can be as much as twice the recommended amount and confusion is caused by many food labels giving the sodium content of the product, rather than the salt content. This number is 2.5 times smaller than the total amount of salt so manufacturers would prefer to give you these figures so it appears to be less than it actually is. Another problem is that different versions of the same food can have a massive variation in the amount of salt they contain. Take baked beans for example, a 200g tin can contain from 1.8g of salt to 3g of salt (½ of your recommended daily allowance).
Whilst eating too much salt does not increase your overall body fat it can lead to weight gain through fluid retention which can make you feel bloated, cause swelling in the face and hands and can cause pain in the joints. The greater health issues are that an imbalance in sodium and potassium through too much salt intake can result in increased blood pressure and, ultimately, artery damage and kidney disease.
So, now we know the problems how can we solve them? The easiest way is to avoid all processed foods and cook and prepare all of your food yourself but, since this is not always possible and there are some everyday staples that can be surprisingly high in salt the best thing is to become label smart. First of all you need to know what amounts to low or high in salt:
High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g of sodium)
Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g of sodium)
Secondly, you need to know the types of foods which might lead to increased salt intake. These include:
- Breakfast cereals
- Tinned soups
- Ready meals
- Baked beans
- Cakes and biscuits
- Hot chocolate
Admittedly, if you are trying to eat healthily there are foods on that list that you probably wouldn’t be eating anyway but some of them could well be part of your balanced diet such as bread, cereals, beans and cheese. Bread salt content can range from 2.8g per 100g to 0.6g, cereals from 0.7g per 100g to 0.4g per 100g whilst cheese can range from 0.6g per 100g to 0.4g. As you can see, by taking the time to read the labels you can greatly reduce your salt intake and reduce your risk of heart disease, kidney failure and stroke.
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