It’s Salt Awareness Week, but do you know how much salt is in your food? Research by Consensus Action on Salt and Health found some pizzas are saltier than sea water – CASH asks how we can tackle our salt addiction.
As a nation, we have a love affair with salt. Put simply; we’re addicted to it.
Average intakes are around 9g per person per day; much more than the adult recommended maximum intake of 6g per person per day (around a teaspoon).
Research has shown that 90% of us know salt is bad for our health – but will we ever be able to wean ourselves off the white stuff?
I often think about this myself, perhaps over a bowl of home-made soup, or a packet of unsalted nuts, so I’d be interested to hear what you think about our salt addiction.
Too much salt and our health
This addiction to salt is damaging our health. Salt puts up our blood pressure, which leads to strokes and heart attacks, and is also linked to kidney disease, stomach cancer and osteoporosis.
Most of the salt we eat (about 75%) is already hidden in the food we eat from supermarkets, canteens, takeaways and restaurants, meaning the salt we add to our cooking and at the table tends to be a fraction of this. So, even if we could simply ditch the salt cellar (as I have), we would still be eating too much salt.
For instance, in our new survey we found that just one takeaway pizza contained 10.57g of salt – that’s saltier than the sea! In fact, half of the takeaway pizzas we tested contained the entire maximum daily intake of salt (6g).
For Salt Awareness Week 2012, we are highlighting that foods such as bread, pizza, pastries, biscuits, breakfast cereals and cheese are as much the culprits as salty-tasting food like as bacon, anchovies and salt and vinegar crisps.
Who’s responsible for our salt intake?
I think chefs are the ‘pushers’ of the salt world. They consider salt as the ultimate flavour enhancer, in place of quality ingredients and other flavours like herbs and spices. Perhaps TV chefs even have a duty to use less salt in their programmes and cookbooks? And would you be prepared to add less salt to your food (even though it may taste a little bland at first!)?
However, food manufacturers are gradually starting to wean us off salt, meaning we so we don’t have to go cold turkey. Old favourites like Heinz Baked Beanz, HP Sauce and Kelloggs Cornflakes are much less salty than they used to be.
And new brands of lower salt foods like Seabrook ‘no salt’ Crisps, Hampstead Farms ‘no salt sauces’ have been coming on to the market. But clearly that’s not going to be enough.
So how can we cut our salt intake? Would you ask for less salt when eating out in restaurants, or complain if your food was too salty? And would you, realistically, read the label on supermarket food and choose an option with less salt?
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Katharine Jenner, Nutritionist for Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) – all opinions expressed here are their own, and not that of Which?