According to the NHS, as a nation we eat the equivalent weight in salt each year to 18,000 double decker buses! With this in mind, we have some useful suggestions to help you reduce salt in your diet for a healthier lifestyle.
Salt and our health
So why do our bodies need salt? When it comes to salt (or sodium), ‘a little goes a long way’ as the old adage goes. We all need a little because, according to Consensus Action on Salt & Health, it helps our bodies to function by keeping our body fluids balanced, helps with digesting food, and helps our nerves to work properly.
Health impacts of too much salt in our diets
Unfortunately many of us are eating more salt than we need, with the average Brit consuming around 8.1g of salt a day (almost 3kg a year).1 It doesn’t sound like much, but too much salt can increase the risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
The NHS recommends that adults should be eating no more than 6g of salt a day.
So how can you reduce your salt intake for a healthier lifestyle?
One of the easiest ways to cut back on salt is to eat fewer processed foods because as much as 75% of the salt we eat comes from ready-made foods like bread, cereal and even baked beans.1 By cooking from fresh, you’re able to see and measure what’s going into your food and therefore you are able to better control the level of salt in your meals.
A lower salt diet doesn’t necessarily mean your meals will become bland, there are many ways to add flavour to some of the most popular foods without adding more salt – here are some suggestions:
- Herbs – the fresher the better, but dried herbs are more cost effective as they last longer. Dill or parsley are the perfect accompaniment for fish dishes, for example.
- Spices and black pepper – these are great store cupboard essentials for spicing up and adding flavour to meals. A pinch of paprika helps add heat and smokiness to a range of different meats.
- Lemon or lime juice – freshly squeezed or from a bottle, these add a wonderful zest and punch to a variety of foods including veggies, salad, meat and fish.
- ‘Low salt’ stock cubes – these can be another easy way to reduce salt levels in your meals without losing the additional flavour.
Browse the labels
A simple tip to try when you’re doing your food shopping is to have a quick look on the food labels to see the nutritional information. We know you might not always have the time to do this but general guidelines are to opt for foods with less than 1.5g of sodium per 100g serving, where possible.1 A number of foods now have a traffic light system to show how much salt, and other items that are bad for us, are in the food. To get an overall balance, try and buy as many foods containing green and amber lights.
We hope that these ideas inspire you to take some positive steps towards improving your health and wellbeing when it comes to your food.