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Thursday 10th October 2019
Salt, otherwise known as sodium, plays an important role in how our bodies function. It helps to keep our muscles working correctly and it also ensures the balance of water in our body is kept within a tight range. It delivers nutrients to cells and assists with ensuring our nerves are working properly. However, salt is often seen in the media headlines in a negative way, usually because it is found in many processed foods in quite high levels without us knowing. Public Health England (PHE) estimate that 80% of the salt we consume is already in food when we buy it. It is also important to note that salt also occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy and eggs. It's important we don’t consume too many foods high in salt as this can lead to high blood pressure which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Foods typically high in salt are listed below. These shouldn't be excluded from the diet but just enjoyed in moderation, so perhaps not every single day.
• Processed meats (sliced ham, chicken, chorizo, sausages etc)
• Smoked fish and meats
• Marmite/yeast extract
• Condiments such as ketchup and mayonnaise
There is often salt found in foods which you may be less aware of, it's worth checking the labels – but more on that later. Again, these shouldn't be excluded from the diet, but consumed in moderation.
• Breakfast cereals
• Shop bought soups and dips such as hummus
• Pre made pasta, stir fry and curry sauces
• Ready meals
The British Nutrition Foundation recommend the below salt intakes per day for children up to the age of 11. Then the recommendation moves to the same as adults at 6g per day. 6g is roughly one teaspoon of salt.
• Go overboard with the herbs and spices in your cooking. Stock up your spice rack and start using these to flavour foods rather than salt. With dried herbs you will need to use more than when using fresh herbs as the taste and flavour isn’t as strong. And make sure you taste test the food as you are cooking it, don’t be afraid just throw them in.
• When shopping, choose the lower salt varieties of products such as canned goods, stocks, gravies and butter. Don't make a big deal about it just buy these as a standard part of your shopping.
• Get label savvy and understand traffic lights. That way you can choose the lowest salt variety on offer, which sometimes may also be cheaper too. Compare products either online or in store and you don't have to overhaul your entire cupboard, just one product a week is a good starting point. It may not always be possible to buy green products and that’s ok too, but having a mix of green and amber with the occasional red is advisable.
o Green means less than 0.3g /100g and is low
o Amber is between 0.3 and 1.5g /100g and is medium
o Red is more than 1.5g / 100g and is high.
• If you regularly add salt to your meals at the table, taste them first. It may be a habit rather than the food actually needing it.
The UK Government are continuously taking steps for food manufacturers to reduce the salt they include in their products so you, the consumer, can feel more confident about what you are buying. Between 2006 and 2014, salt consumption in the UK dropped by 11% and some of this is attributed to manufacturers using less salt in the foods they produce.
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