Posted on March 15, 2013 · Posted in News

11 to 17th March is Salt Awareness Week.  There have been several features in the news this week about the amount of salt in our food and the need to reduce this for our health.

A high intake of salt increases our blood pressure and  increases the risk of cardiovascular disease including strokes.  A high salt intake also increases the risk of osteoporosis and stomach cancer.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) put salt reduction as of equal importance to health as smoking cessation.

Professor Graham MacGregor of the University of London and Chairman of the Consensus for Action on Salt and Health (CASH) if we all reduced our salt intake by a gram (about a pinch) we could save 6000 lives in this country, preventing death from heart disease or strokes.  This would save the UK economy £1.5million per year.

Many manufacturers have signed the Department of Health pledge to reduce their salt intake. The food industry has made considerable progress in reducing the salt content of everyday foods such as breads and cereals.  This has not been without its challenges for manufacturers in relation to food preservation, shelf life and taste.  It must be noted that salt intakes have reduced in the UK from an average of 9.5g per day in 2004 to 8.1g per day today.  This is great news and testament to the work done so far.  However we are still consuming too much.  Adult recommendations are no more than 6g per day.

75% of the salt we eat is hidden in our food.  The news this week outlined the findings of a survey conducted by CASH of major high street restaurants.   664 meals, from 29 high street restaurants, fast food and cafes were surveyed.  52% of all meals looked at were high in salt (>2.4g per portion).  Part of the problem may be due to the large portion sizes served.  One in six meals is eaten out of the home.  It is vital that restaurants provide clear menu labelling that can show us how much salt is in our food.

In summary, try to be aware of the salt content of your food.  Whenever possible try to cook meals from scratch using fresh ingredients.  Keep processed meals and meats to just once or twice a week. Use less salt when preparing and cooking food.  Aim for products that contain less than 0.3g salt per 100g when reading food labels. 

Reducing salt in your diet may mean food will taste bland.  Try to pep dishes up using a variety of herbs and spices.  It may take a few weeks for your taste buds to adjust.  When they do you will find you are open to such wonderful flavours and spices as never experienced before! 



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