Do you know how much salt you eat daily? If you don’t write a food diary you probably don’t know, but you should really reassess your diet and see whether you are consuming too much. Eating too much salt over time can create various health issues so it’s really important to be aware of what you consume daily.
Why too much salt is bad for you
A higher intake of salt is known to increase your blood pressure and over time this could lead to serious health problems such as heart disease.
High salt intake does not only affect your heart, it affects your kidneys too – excess salt could cause a decrease in kidneys’ function, making kidneys less efficient in eliminating waste. (1)
Brains can be another victim of salt. ‘Increasing evidences have suggested that sustained excess salt intake is associated with higher risk of stroke, likely by promoting hypertension and fibrosis in the arteries’. (2)
And that’s not all. Salt also plays a role in the health of our bones. High salt intake is actually a well-recognized risk factor for osteoporosis (3) as it increases calcium losses in the urine, some of which will be directly from the bones. (4)
How much salt do we eat?
Although the food industry has shown positive steps in reducing the amount of salt in foods, many of us still eat too much.
It’s not recommended to eat more than 6g of salt a day but most people in the UK go over this recommendation. On average, adults in the UK eat about 8.1g of salt a day. Are you one of them? In the US they consume even more salt daily – an average of 3,400mg of sodium or 8.6g of salt.
75% of the salt we eat is already hidden in the foods we buy so it is easy to find yourself eating a high salt diet without realising it.
Recommended daily salt intake for men and women – Does the gender matter?
No, the gender doesn’t matter. The recommendation to eat no more than 6 g of salt a day applies to both men and women.
Recommended daily salt intake for high blood pressure
If you have high blood pressure you should take extra care when consuming salty foods. The American Heart Association advises those with high blood pressure not to consume more than 1,500 mg of sodium (or 3.8 g of salt) per day.
Recommended daily salt intake by age group
|Age Group||Recommended daily maximum|
|0-6 months||Less than 1g|
|11 years +||6g|
Tips to reduce your salt intake
Heart Research UK has devised some healthy tips to help you shop smarter and look out for hidden salt.
Check out Heart Research UK’s top tips here:
- Sneaky salt
You may be surprised to learn that the main offenders of hidden salt are the pre-prepared foods we buy, including foods that don’t taste salty like your favourite sweet treats:
– Breakfast cereal, bread, confectionery, pastries and cakes are just some of the surprisingly salty culprits in your cupboards so check the labels next time you shop.
– ‘Diet’ or ‘Low Fat’ foods are worth watching as many are not as healthy as you might think. Removing fat from foods changes their texture, taste and shelf life so more salt may be added to compensate.
- Know your numbers
– Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt per day to maintain healthy blood pressure. Remember that children’s bodies and organs are smaller so they need even less salt.
– A teaspoon is about 5g of salt (2000mg of sodium), a good way to gauge your intake.
- Understanding “label-lingo”
Traffic light labels are a useful tool to keep salt intake in check, though the system is optional for the food industry and isn’t used by all manufacturers making labels a bit of a minefield.
- Be salt-smart when shopping by knowing the following:
– Table salt is sodium chloride, a molecule made up of sodium and chlorine, and it’s the sodium we need to watch out for. Some foods state the sodium content in milligrams (mg) rather than salt in grams, so it’s useful to know how to convert this to salt. Here is the formula: milligrams of sodium x 2.5 = milligrams of salt divided by 1000 = grams of salt
- Go Low
– Salt is an acquired taste so if you’re cutting down it’s best to do this gradually to allow your taste buds to catch up with the change.
– Remember that flavour doesn’t just come from salt, so get creative instead using blends of herbs, spices and garlic in your dishes.
– The food industry has been working hard reformulating many of our favourites to offer low-salt alternatives. Choose low-salt baked beans, soy sauce, condiments and stock cubes and make these your new staples.
See whether the food you eat is high in salt by checking the table below:
|Category||Salt (g) /sodium (mg) per 100g of food|
|High||1.5 g / 600 mg (or more)|
|Medium||0.3 – 1.5 g / 120 – 600 mg|
|Low||0.3 g / 120 mg (or less)|
By shopping smarter when it comes to salt you can protect your heart, brains, kidneys and bones. For a healthier future do something good for yourself today. Try and eat no more than a teaspoon a day.