Salt Awareness took centre stage in March as Action on Salt steered the focus to hidden sources of salt in our foods. We’re underestimating our salt intake quite considerably. On average we’re consuming 8g/ day. The recommendation is 6g/ day, but we think we’re consuming around 3g per day. Could hidden sources be the reason? Or are we all eating a few too many packets of crisps?
We’ve watched for a while now as concerns over fat and sugar have grabbed the headlines, but has this turned our attention away from salt, which still remains a significant risk factor to health. A study in The Lancet found excess sodium to be one of the biggest dietary risk factors globally. It is implicated in our biggest killers – Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer. I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom, but it is a risk factor we can absolutely do something about.
Currently, 2.5 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension) – but there are an awful lot of people floating around with hypertension who don’t know it. There are also cases of high blood pressure emerging in children, which is down to diet and lifestyle factors.
Here’s what we should be aiming for:
Turning our attention to our children, it’s all about nursing the taste buds so they don’t become accustomed too, and then seek out salty foods. Our kids might not be throwing back handfuls of salted nuts, but now as palettes are developing and we’re exposing our children to more exotic tastes and flavours, higher salt intakes may follow, for example sushi with the trimmings, salt and pepper squid, or mezzanine platters with cheeses and cured meats.
So, let’s look at tips for shopping, and tips for cooking.
Top tips for shopping
Salt with fancy names is still salt – even if it’s pink. Similar to the challenge with different names for sugar as we exposed here, sodium chloride behind the scenes still has the same health impact.
Ready-made foods that have undergone some sort of processing will contain higher levels of salt. That’s not to say they need to be avoided though, we just need to become savvier.
This is a useful guide:
Reduced salt sauces are a good option to switch to. Areduced claim doesn’t translate to mean low salt though, so be careful not tofall into the trap of adding more, because you think it’s not as ‘bad’ for you.I think portion size is key here – which translates to not giving my childrenaccess to the ketchup bottle and then leaving the room.
Other high salt foods and what to consider
Processed meats, such as ham, sausages and salami. They don’t add a lot of nutritional value apart from protein, so do look for lower salt versions.
Cheese – high in salt but a valuable source of other nutrients, especially for children so just go steady on portion size and you probably don’t need triple cheese topping on a pizza.
Crisps – smaller portions – adult sized bags are not a snack appropriate for children.
Olives – they’re from the healthy Mediterranean but they’re also quite salty.
Breakfast cereals – some can be higher in salt but do consider the bigger picture – how much fibre they’re giving you, the portion size being eaten and the carrier nutrients that come from the milk/ yogurt you’re likely to be serving it with.
Salt substitutes based on potassium chloride would also be considered better for health. In cooking, we should aim to limit adding salt as much as we can, even if the adult, in the process of retraining their taste buds, needs to add a little afterwards. Reduced salt stock cubes are also a good shout.
Exploring other flavours to substitute in forthe salt is a good idea.