Why is salt so dangerous and how can I cut back?

Salt is dubbed the ‘silent killer’ – and for good reason.

It’s in just about everything we eat, and though our bodies need it to survive, we actually only require small amounts.

Evidence has shown that regularly eating too much salt puts us at increased risk of developing high blood pressure, which is the main cause of strokes and a major cause of heart attacks and heart failures – the two most common causes of death.

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7 to 10 times too much salt

According to the cholesterol charity Heart UK, adults require no more than one gram each day, and children even less. And yet most of us are eating 7-10 times as much.

“Everyone can benefit from reducing their salt intake,” say Heart UK. “It’s not just about cutting the amount of salt you add to your food it’s also about cutting down on processed and packaged foods that are high in salt.”

Heart UK recommends:1-3 years – no more than 2g salt a day4-6 years – no more than 3g salt a day10 years – no more than 5g salt a day11 years and above – no more than 6g salt a day

Here are some common questions answered about salt, courtesy of Heart UK.

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What is salt?

By salt, we mean table salt, which is otherwise known as sodium chloride. It is the biggest source of sodium in our diets and it’s this sodium that’s the problem in relation to blood pressure. While we do need some sodium in our diet to help regulate fluid in the body, it’s unusual for us not to get enough – and only too common for us to have too much.

What’s the daily limit?

The Government recommends that we eat no more than 6g of salt a day, which is about a teaspoon.

Why are we going over this limit?

Many people unfortunately don’t realise they are eating too much salt. That is because about 75 per cent of the salt in our diet comes from process foods. It’s not just in ready meals, soups and sauces, though – keep an eye on everyday foods such as breads and cereals, as well as sweet foods harbouring a salty surprise.

How can I cut back?

We acquire a taste for salt and, over time, get used to a certain amount in our diets. If you cut back drastically and suddenly, you may at first find that your food tastes bland. However, flavour doesn’t only come from salt. Fresh and dried herbs, spices, black pepper, chilli and lemon are all great ways to add flavour. So while you reduce the amount of salt you eat, substitute it with these other flavour enhancers and you won’t notice the loss as much. It only takes three weeks for our taste buds to adapt and become more sensitive to salt, so you get the same flavour impact from less salt.

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Are other types of salt better?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that fancier types of salt are better for you. Whether it’s pink, black, rock, crystal or flakes, they still have the same effect on your blood pressure as standard table salt.

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