Most of us are well aware that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for some of the most common killers, such as stroke and coronary heart disease. But are you aware just how big a role salt consumption can play in developing high blood pressure in the first place?
Even if you are clued up on this, there’s still a chance you’re not entirely sure how much salt you’re consuming – especially if you regularly eat processed foods (things like ready-made sauces, basically many of the foods you’re not preparing from scratch), which, according to Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH), around 75% of the salt in our diets comes from.
According to recent research from low-salt alternative brand LoSalt, nearly two-thirds of people (63%) are not actively reducing their salt intake – which indicates there’s still a lack of awareness around the white stuff and its associated health risks.
So what else do you need to know about salt intake?
We’ve done some salt myth-busting to point you in the right direction…
MYTH: You can eat as much salt as you like
False! We need salt to survive, so cutting it out entirely is NOT the goal. However, too much of it can lead to potentially serious problems down the line. As many as three-quarters (75%) of the population don’t realise that 6g is the maximum daily recommended salt intake, according to the LoSalt survey.
There’s two components in salt: sodium and chloride, and it’s the sodium that is doing the damage because it can lead to high blood pressure. Although most people with high blood pressure don’t realise they have it, it is responsible for around 50% of heart disease cases and 60% of strokes, according to the World Health Organisation.
MYTH: Rock salt is healthier than regular salt
Many people believe trendier sea and rock salts are healthier than regular salts, but this is incorrect.
Nutritionist and dietitian Azmina Govindji says: “They contain the same amount of sodium chloride: 100%! Sea salt may contain traces of other minerals, but the levels are too low to have a health benefit and so it is not healthier for you than any other salt.”
MYTH: Saltless food is bland
Extra salt added during cooking makes up 20% of our salt intake, notes Govindji. Granted, this might not sound like much, but it’s the chunk of our intake which we’re most in control of.
We might think our dinner will taste bland without a sprinkling of salt, but this isn’t strictly true.
“By reducing a little here and there, you’ll soon find your taste buds become accustomed to not having such high levels of salt and you’ll have less need for it in cooking and for seasoning food,” says Govindji.
MYTH: There are no alternatives to salt
For those who really can’t go without the taste of salt, brands like LoSalt offer an alternative to the traditional white stuff. It still contains all the flavour of normal salt, but contains 66% less sodium.
Also, try herbs and spices, vinegar or a dash of lemon instead to give your food the punch of flavour that salt usually would. Dill tastes great with fish, rosemary is wonderful with meat, and basil will finish off a pasta dish perfectly.
MYTH: Cutting out salt in cooking is all you need to do
Not adding salt to cooking is a good start – but it’s important to remember that this is only a small part of the solution, and there’s plenty more we can do.
The food we buy fresh in supermarkets can still be salt heavy, so always read the labels. If you can’t always cook from scratch, choose low-salt options and avoid the red traffic light on food labels!
Eat notoriously high-salt foods, like cheese, bacon, ham, salted and roasted nuts and salami, in moderation, and watch out for ready meals, pizzas, pasta sauces and bread. They’re usually far higher in salt than you might think!