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Cutting down on salt

19 February 2021

Posted on: 19 February 2021

69% of adults in England eat too much salt, according to a National Diet and Nutrition Survey.[1] The NHS recommends that adults should eat no more than six grams of salt per day – that’s about a teaspoon. You don't have to add salt to your food to eat too much of it – around 75% of the salt we eat is already in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals.[2]

The principal benefit of lowering salt intake is a reduction in high blood pressure, and a corresponding lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack. If you’re concerned that excess salt might be affecting your health, read on for tips on how to cut down.

Taste test

Remember, whether you're eating at home, cooking or eating out, don't add salt to your food automatically – taste it first. Many people add salt out of habit, but it's often unnecessary and your food will taste good without it.

You can pep up the flavour of your dishes with herbs and spices instead; for instance, add garlic, ginger, chilli and lime to stir fries. Use fresh or dried seasonings such as cumin, rosemary, lemon juice and black pepper.

Shop smart

Obviously, foods which taste salty likely contain a lot of salt – eg. crisps, bacon, soy sauce etc. But manufacturers often add huge amounts of salt to their products which isn’t clear unless you check the label.

Check the salt content of your favourite brands of bread, breakfast cereals, soup, biscuits etc – you might be surprised at how much salt you’re eating without even noticing. Consult the label and switch to a lower-salt brand if necessary.

Decode the label

Many foods display information about the salt content on the front of the packaging. This may show the salt content as a percentage of your reference intake (RI), or have colour-coded nutrition information to show whether the salt content is:

  • green (low)
  • amber (medium)
  • red (high)

Try to eat high-salt foods only occasionally, or in small amounts, and aim to mainly eat foods that are green or amber.

Convenience costs

We know that we should only enjoy ready meals, takeaways, and fast food as an occasional treat because of their high fat content.  But a takeaway or delivery pizza can contain as much as five grams of salt, which is nearly all an adult’s daily limit in one meal!

Takeaways are convenient at the end of a long day, but stir-fries, pasta sauces, soups and curries will all taste better and are likely to contain much less salt if you make them from scratch. Cook them in big batches and freeze for a steady supply of quick, healthy meals that will save you money too.

For more advice on a healthy diet, check out the Eat Well resources from the NHS.

 

[1] National Diet and Nutrition Survey, Assessment of salt intake from urinary sodium in adults (aged 19 to 64 years) in England, 2018 to 2019. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/876624/Report_England_Sodium_Survey_2018-to-2019.pdf

[2] NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/tips-for-a-lower-salt-diet/

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