Salt is one of the main causes of high blood pressure, which in turn causes strokes, heart attacks and heart failure. Many people are not aware of the hidden amount of salt present in some type of foods such as bread, processed meat, soups and sauces. We’ll dive into this below…
Evidence shows that people consume on average 8.1 g of salt a day, which is about a third more than the WHO and Public Health England recommendations. The WHO recommends that adults consume less than 5 g of salt a day, whereas Public Health England recommends a maximum of 6 g of salt a day. All salt should be iodised, as iodine is an essential mineral for healthy brain development and for the thyroid hormones.
One of the main reasons as to why we overconsume salt is attributed to the fact that 75% of salt in our diet comes from processed food. Processed meat, soups, sauces and particularly bread often have high salt contents, which can make it tricky to reduce our salt intake.
Public Health England has developed a salt reduction strategy to be achieved by 2024, to help consumers regulate their daily salt intake. According to the new salt reduction targets, businesses are encouraged to reduce salt content from 0.9 g of 100 g target to 0.85 g.
By following this salt reduction strategy, it has been estimated that strokes would be decreased by 22% and heart attacks by 16%. Furthermore, on the 22nd of July 2021 Public Health England has declared that promotions of food and drinks high in salt, fat and sugar will be restricted from October 2022.
To bypass the restrictions, manufacturers have the opportunity to reformulate their products into healthier versions. For example, there are many salt replacers that can be used. Potassium chloride is an alternative. The research has also posed the attention on the use of yeast extract which is also a very good source of selenium and chromium. Selenium is a mineral that has antioxidant activity, contributes to the normal thyroid function and to the maintenance of normal hair and nails. Chromium is a mineral that helps to stabilise blood glucose levels. It is therefore very good for people suffering from type-2 diabetes.
An interesting case study highlights the salt content present in the typical British crumpets. Crumpets are a common household purchase in the UK, with recent data suggesting a 55% increase in sales during lockdown.
The previous target for salt content in crumpets was 1.25 g of salt in 2017; whereas with the new reduction strategy it’s 1.19 g of salt to be achieved by 2024.
The report shows that the average salt content of crumpets is 1.15g/100g. 89% of crumpets meet the 2017 reduction target and 68% meet the current 2024 reduction target.
What is significant in the study, is that, although more than half of the crumpets meet the salt targets, they still have a quite high salt content which is shown by the Traffic Light labelling system, you can read more about food labels here.
Salt content needs to be managed in children and the elderly as well. Children are likely to follow their parents’ dietary habits. Therefore, it is important that they are well educated about the risk of consuming excessive sodium on health (osteoporosis and obesity are the main sodium-health related conditions in children). Healthier alternatives for children’s meals.
- Swap processed meat with lean meat and fish
- Swap crisps with seed bars or crackers
- Swap regular bread with sodium-free alternatives
Older people tend to have a higher blood pressure the more they age. Therefore, it is essential for old people to keep salt intake as low as possible. Elevated salt can cause loss of calcium in the urine. This can weaken bones and cause osteoporosis. There are approximately 3 billion people in the UK who suffer from osteoporosis, which is particularly spread among the elderly.
What can you do?
We recommend you read the front of pack labelling of the food you eat and check how much salt is present. We also recommend you swap salt with more herbs and spices that not only reduce the sodium content, but also give flavour to the food. Umami is also an interesting flavour that can substitute salt.