A dribble of olive oil, a glove of garlic, zest of a lemon and a sprinkle of salt — ah, stop … rewind. It seems that when it comes to enhancing the flavour of food, we should be easing up on the white stuff. In light of Salt Awareness Week on 29th February – 6th March, we thought we would give you the low down on all the hype.

THE FACTS

The recommended daily amount of salt for the UK is 6g per day, but Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) state that the nation’s current average salt intake is around 8.6g per day — 2.6g above the healthy recommendations.

But why is something so seemingly insignificant so bad for our health? According to the Blood Pressure Association (BPA), salt makes our bodies retain water, known as water retention, which raises blood pressure, putting strain on the heart, arteries, kidneys and brain. Consuming too much salt could lead to strokes and heart attacks, with increasing evidence showing a link to stomach cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, kidney stones and kidney disease as well.

Research lead by Professor Francesco Cappuccio from the University of Warwick, published in theBritish Medical Journal, found that people who regularly consumed too much salt each day by 5g had a 23% greater risk of stroke and a 17% greater chance of developing heart disease.

HIDE AND SEEK

It’s not just a case of avoiding the pinches and sprinkles. Up to 75% of the salt we consume is ‘hidden’ in processed foods, which makes it difficult to keep track. Manufacturers ladle it in to enhance flavour, meaning we blindly consume more of the white stuff than we realise.

According to the latest figures from the National Diet & Nutrition Survey (NDNS), the biggest contributors of salt in the diet are bread, cheese and meat products, such as bacon.

But it can also be found in seemingly unsalty foods, such as pre-prepared vegetables, mash potato, canned produce particularly soups, prepared salads and even sweet treats, such as muffins.

On a positive note, salt reduction has been a real success here in the UK, with many food products now 20-40% lower in salt than they were 10 years ago.

To track salt, use the simple traffic light labelling system and always opt for green where possible, or otherwise amber. Aim for 2g or less of salt per meal, or between 30%-35% of your GDA, so you obtain a third of your daily salt intake at each meal.

You can also print off this easy to follow guide.

Remember to account for any snacks you have in between meals too, and always enter everything into your online diary.

LESS SALT DOESN’T MEAN LESS FLAVOUR

  • Use a mix of herbs to add flavour, such as basil, oregano, tarragon, parsley, coriander, mint.
  • Spice things up with black pepper, curry powder, cumin, cayenne, chilli powder and ginger.
  • Make your own salad dressing based on balsamic, cider or rice vinegars.
  • Use lemongrass, fresh coriander and a small amount of sesame oil to flavour stir fries.
  • Use olive oil infused with garlic, basil, chilli or rosemary, to sauté vegetables or on salads.
  • Choose low-salt stocks, use half a stock cube, or make your own.
  • Sea salt and rock salt have the same effect on the body as normal table and cooking salt.
  • Cut back on sauces, such as soy sauce, ketchup, brown sauce and salad dressings.
  • Avoid ready mixed herbs and spices, such as Cajun mix, as these can be high in salt.
  • Food may taste bland at first, but within a few weeks your taste buds will adjust and you’ll taste the same amount of flavour, with less salt!

For more information on salt and CASH research, visit www.actiononsalt.org.uk.

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