We were responding to this article on salt in popular foods and it was a drinking chocolate in particular that hit the news headlines https://goo.gl/f7UbIc
The hot chocolate was found to be as salty as seawater with 16 times more salt than the optimum amount, a study by the campaign group Consensus Action On Salt and Health found.
Now that news headlines revolve around the negative impact of sugar so often, have we taken our eye off the ball when it comes to salt?
What is the problem with salt and why are we told to avoid it?
Salt contains sodium which causes more water to be retained by the kidneys, and more water means more blood volume and therefore higher blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase risk of heart disease, kidney disease, dementia and stroke.
If you are looking to reduce blood pressure check out my top tips: What to eat if you have high blood pressure as well as these meal plans for high blood pressure.
Is there a healthier alternative to table salt?
Table salt is almost 100% sodium chloride. Sea salt on the other hand contains sodium with potassium and other minerals. Sodium and potassium exist in a partnership. Potassium can help lower blood pressure because it balances sodium. Switching a mineral based salt would be a good first step in reducing risk of ill health.
There are plenty of magnesium and potassium based salts available in health food stores. While these are better choices, it’s still important to avoid excessive salt intake. Keep salt low and keep your vegetable intake higher.
Here are a few ways you can start to reduce your salt intake:
- Eat vegetables daily at most meals
- Drink a minimum of 1 litre of plain water per day
- Compare sodium in foods like breakfast cereals, bread, cheese, tinned soup and stock cubes and choose the foods with lower numbers
- Use nori or kelp seaweed flakes, which are rich in minerals as a salt substitute; they are great over fish, pasta and stir fries.
- Cooking at home is a perfect opportunity to control your salt intake. Avoid adding salt at the table and if cooking with salt choose a sea or seaweed salt and gradually reduce your intake
- If you can see it avoid it – salty snacks, pretzels, crisps, chips, rice cakes
- A natural diet rich in vegetables and some fruit can produce optimal potassium to sodium ratios
- Little kids = little kidneys. Salt guidelines for children are 4g per day. Always check the labels on children's meals and snacks. Ham and smoked salmon is high in salt in order to cure the meat. Where possible prefer unsmoked fish and lean fresh chicken or turkey instead of ham and luncheon meat slices.
As dietary habits in the UK have become more and more depleted in potassium (due to low vegetable intake), they have become much more concentrated in sodium (packaged foods). Salt intake for adults should not be more than 6g per day and most of us already eat too much without even trying. Planning ahead and carrying a packed lunch and healthy snacks on the go will help you reduce your salt intake and take back control of what you are putting inside your body.
Seaweed salt pictured below.