A new study published in BMJ Open today reveals that cutting salt out of our diets is likely to have had a huge impact on mortality rates due to stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Since 2003 the amount of salt that food manufacturers put into foods such as bread, sauces, crisps and biscuits has fallen by as much as 50% after pressure by public health campaigns.
Experts at Queen Mary, University of London, state that daily salt consumption has fallen by an average 1.4g between 2003 and 2011 and the Food Standards Agency estimates that more than 11 million kilograms of salt have been removed from foods in the UK.
However we are still consuming over 8g of salt per day when our target is 6g per day.
So, how are we going to meet those targets? It is clear that we need to cut down processed foods in our diets but we can also make healthier food choices elsewhere to ensure that we don’t overload on salt:
Firstly, learn how much salt you should be looking for as listed on a nutrition label:
- High is more than 1.5g salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
- Low is 0.3g salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)
What to remember:
Try to stop using salt in cooking and as a condiment on cooked foods. You will soon get used to enjoying the natural flavour of foods.
Educate yourself as to what are high salt foods:
- Tinned meat, bacon, cured meats, ham, sausages, meat pastes or pates, smoked fish, tinned fish in brine.
- Limit hard cheese to 125 g (4 oz) per week
- Cut down on salty savoury biscuits, tinned vegetables in brine or with added salt, tinned and packet soups, all stock cubes, gravy powder/ granules, soya sauce and ketchups, monosodium glutamate and salted or flavoured nuts and crisps.
- Be especially careful of breakfast cereals which often have very high levels of salt
What to substitute?
- all fresh and frozen meat, poultry and fish
- tinned fish in oil or water
- milk, eggs, cream, yoghurts, cottage cheese, quark, crème fraiche (use unsalted butter)
- rice, pasta (preferably brown or wholemeal versions), quinoa, pulses and beans, buckwheat noodles
- animal fats and good quality oils such as olive and coconut
- all fruits, all fresh or frozen vegetables
- home-made soups and stocks (get into the habit of making bone stocks without salt
- unsalted nuts and seeds
- make your own muesli base (some supermarkets make their own which have no added salt)
- Medicines containing sodium should also be avoided. These include effervescent (fizzy) tablets, laxatives, and some stomach settlers.
- Fizzy vitamins especially Vitamin C also contain bicarbonate of soda or other salts
Make as many things from scratch as possible like pasta sauces and quiches and be aware that breads and many other baked goods contain added salt.
Flavour your foods with the following instead of salt:
- Any fresh, frozen or dried herbs – either cooked in your food or sprinkled on top
- All spices
- Lemon and lime juice
- Red or white wine or cider in gravies, casseroles etc
- Fresh onions, garlic, shallots, ginger, chillies etc
Eating out can be a bit of a minefield. However you can make some smarter choices:
- When you order a pizza, choose vegetable or chicken toppings instead of pepperoni, bacon, or extra cheese.
- At the sandwich bar, go for fillings such as chicken or egg salad or poached salmon, instead of ham or cheese and pickle, which are usually higher in salt.
- If you’re having a Chinese or Indian meal, go for plain rice because this is lower in salt than egg-fried rice or pilau rice. However, Indian, Thai and Chinese foods tend to have quite a high salt content. Always check if restaurants use MSG and ask them to leave it out.
- Try not to have salty chips too often – boiled new potatoes would be a better choice.
A typical days diet low in salt could include:
- Poached eggs on slice of wholemeal or rye bread with unsalted butter or omelette flavoured with chopped chives or coriander
- Bowl of homemade muesli with fruit and natural yoghurt
- Grilled chicken or fish with green salad. Use lemon juice and olive oil and herbs instead of a shop-bought dressing.
- Homemade vegetable soup with no added salt
- Wholemeal pasta with homemade pasta sauce made from tomatoes, onion, garlic and fresh herbs
- Grilled meats or chicken or pulse dish with lots of fresh vegetables or salad
- Unsalted nuts and seeds, natural yoghurt with fruit, vegetable sticks with homemade hummous or yoghurt dip