Salt (along with sugar) has been in the news again, not because we’ve run out of it to spread on the roads but because we are consuming too much of it

Too much salt can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and stroke. Currently the food industry has begun to take positive steps in terms of reducing the amount of salt in foods, providing alternatives. The Government has also introduced the need for improved clarity of food labelling.

Despite this, many of us still eat too much, and with 75% of the salt we eat already hidden in the foods we buy it’s easy to find ourselves eating a high salt diet without realising it. Here are some tips to reduce your consumption:

Sneaky salt

The main offenders of hidden salt are the pre-prepared foods we buy, including foods that don’t taste salty. Breakfast cereal, bread, confectionary, pastries and cakes are just some of the surprisingly salty culprits in your cupboards so check the labels next time you shop. “Diet” or “Low Fat” foods are worth watching, as many are not as healthy as you might think.

Removing fat from foods changes their texture, taste and shelf-life so more salt may be added to compensate.

Know your numbers

Adults should eat no more than 6gs of salt per day to maintain a healthy blood pressure (children need even less).

Understanding labels

Traffic light labels are useful, although the system is optional for the food industry and isn’t used by all manufacturers. The system expresses values for nutrients per 100g of the food.

Category: Salt(g)/Sodium(mg) per 100g of food

High 1.5g/600mg (or more)

Medium 0.3–1.5 g/120–600mg

Low 0.3 g/120mg (or less)

Be salt- smart when shopping

Table salt is sodium chloride, a molecule made up of sodium and chlorine, and it’s the sodium we need to watch out for. Some foods state the sodium content in milligrams (mg) rather than in grams (g), so it’s useful to know how to convert this.

milligrams of sodium x 2.5 = milligrams of salt divided by 1,000 = grams of salt

Go low

Salt is an acquired taste so if you’re cutting down it’s best to do this gradually to allow your taste buds to catch up with the change.

Remember that flavour doesn’t just come from salt, so get creative instead using blends of herbs, spices and garlic in your dishes. By shopping smarter when it comes to salt you can protect your heart for a healthier future without missing out on taste.