This blog was published on World Health Day 2013 to raise awarness of the risk of hypertension read Hypertension and blood pressure to find out more
Salt actually refers to 'sodium chloride'. We need sodium chloride for muscle contraction, fluid regulation and nerve impulse transmission. However, too much salt has a negative impact on all of these functions. Reducing salt in our diet is recommended as a key strategy to prevent hypertension - the technical term for high blood pressure. We are therefore advised to consume no more than 6 g of salt a day (just over a teaspoon). Many of us consume excess salt as it is used in ready meals, processed foods, snacks and restaurant foods. This kind of diet suits our hectic lifestyles but not knowing exactly how much salt we're eating may take a toll on our health and lead to hypertension. The organisation CASH campaigns to raise awareness of salt levels in foods.
Recommendations for reducing salt intake include
- Fill your plate with fruit and vegetables as they contain low amounts of soidum but higher amounts of potassium as well as lots of other important micronutrients. Read Nutrition matters to find out more about micronutrients. I think in the UK when we talk about healthy eating people focus on cutting out food groups and calories but there needs to be more of a focus on this key message i.e. Eat more veg!
- Retrain your tastebuds I think the key is to wean yourself off the added salt and replace it with lo-salt, herbs, spices and other new ingredients. It's not easy but certainly possible. Have a look at our Healthier shopping list which includes a starter list of herbs and spices. CASH also provides examples of low salt recipes.
- Stealth Health According to Harvard most people can't detect a 25% reduction in salt levels which is the message being used to encourage food manufacturers to join the fight against hypertension. As a consumer, familiarise yourself with organisations who are making an effort to protect our health
- Watch out for hidden sodium in ready to eat food for toddlers, take away food, pizzas, ready meals, sauces and dips, processed food, soups, breakfast cereals, sports drinks, muffins and other baked items.
If a food label provides a sodium value per portion remember to multiply by 2.5 to calculate salt in grams per portion e.g. if a food contains 2 g of sodium then this implies 2 x 2.5 = 5 g of salt.
Note that recommendations for children are less than 6 g of salt per day. To find out more, visit CASH
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