Salt has been used for centuries to preserve, flavour and season food but, as tasty as it is, too much salt can be bad for your health.
According to World Action on Salt and Health, one in three adults in the UK has high blood pressure and consuming too much salt is a key contributory factor. A ‘high salt’ diet disrupts the natural balance of sodium in the body and, as blood pressure rises, it increases the risk of other health problems such as heart disease and stroke. If you already have high blood pressure, reducing salt intake is a good way of lowering it. It’s all about moderation, salt is not bad in the right amounts, in fact, we have a daily essential requirement for a certain amount of salt in our diet.
So how much salt is good for you and how can you get the balance right?
What is salt and why do we need it?
Salt, or sodium chloride, is made up of two minerals – sodium and chloride. These two minerals are needed by your body as they play various roles.
Sodium is responsible for regulating body water content and electrolyte balance and the control of sodium levels depends on a balance between sodium excretion and absorption by the kidneys, which is regulated by nerves and hormones.
Sodium is also necessary to help the absorption of certain nutrients and water from the gut.
Daily recommended salt intake for adults
According to the Food Standards Agency, the maximum healthy intake of salt is 6g per day – about one full teaspoon. But much of the salt we consume has been added to everyday foods, such as bread, breakfast cereal or ready meals.
Foods high in salt include: Anchovies, bacon, cheese, gravy granules/stock cubes, ham, salami, salted and dry roasted nuts, smoked fish and meat, soy sauce, yeast extract. Other food items which may contain a lot of salt are crisps, pasta sauces, sausages and pizza.
Cooking from scratch will help you to control the amount of salt you consume.