A-salt on our health

We think too much salt is bad for our health, but for the life of us we couldn’t tell you why

While the message appears to have got through to us Brits that too much salt is bad for us, we still don’t know why, which means we’re not cutting it down fast enough – and this can leave us at risk of serious health problems.

New research shows more than nine in ten people say eating too much salt can damage your health, a positive sign that events like Salt Awareness Week are working.

But when asked which health conditions were linked to eating too much of the mineral, most Brits had no idea of what effects it has. Although two-thirds are aware that a high salt diet is linked to high blood pressure (69%) only one-third relate salt to stroke, even though high blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for stroke.

Barely a quarter know that it contributes to kidney diseases like renal failure or kidney stones (27%), just one in twenty Brits know  that high salt intake can lead to osteoporosis (4%) and stomach cancer (6%), according to research by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH).

The average Brit consumes almost 9g of salt every day, despite the recommended allowance published on the side of most food products clearly reading a limit of 6g. Sticking to these guidelines can reduce the risk of having a stroke or heart attack by a quarter.

About 80% of our salt intake is hidden in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereals and meat products (ham, bacon, sausages and burgers), as well as convenience foods (pizzas, ready meals and canned/packet soups) and fast foods and snacks (crisps, salted nuts, popcorn).

 Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine comments: “The evidence linking salt to conditions such as stomach cancer, osteoporosis, kidney disease, obesity and stroke has been building for years and now must not be ignored.  We should all reduce our salt intake to the maximum recommended target of 6 grams a day or less if we are to minimise the risk of developing these serious health problems.”

By gradually reducing salt, and trying some of the tips below, you can still have great tasting food without the salt:

Tips for adding flavour in place of salt

  • Use balsamic, cider or rice vinegars on salads as an alternative dressing.
     
  • Add fresh ginger, garlic, chilli and spring onions to your cooking to add more flavour
     
  • Marinade fish or meat prior to cooking (ideas below)
     
  • Add red wine when cooking stews or casseroles to enhance the flavour
     
  • Roast carrots and parsnips with cinnamon or mixed spice and a drizzle of honey
     
  • Steam vegetables lightly to retain the colour and taste and add a dash of lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper
     
  • Instead of using stock cubes, make your own gravy or use red wine sauce instead (red wine sauce recipe)
     
  • Use an infused olive oil, e.g. garlic, basil, chilli or rosemary to sauté vegetables or as part of a salad dressing
     
  • Use lemongrass, fresh coriander and a small amount of sesame oil to flavour stir fries instead of soy sauce

Some ideas for marinades...

  • Honey, ginger, garlic and olive oil - great for chicken or pork
     
  • Ginger, coriander, lime rind and juice - great for lamb or fish
     
  • Black pepper, chilli and vegetable oil - great for beef
     
  • Paprika, garlic, lemon juice and vegetable oil - great for chicken kebabs
  • Chopped fresh dill, olive oil and lemon juice - great for fish
     

Some ideas for reducing salt

Compare labels and choose the lower salt option

Choose supermarket own brands, which tend to be lower in salt

Add less, or no salt in cooking

Add less, or no salt at the table

Avoid processed foods and eating out, in favour of home cooked meals

For more information visit www.actiononsalt.org.uk

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