/ Food & Drink, Health

Take it with a pinch of salt? I would if I could!

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.

As the nutrition labelling on food packaging is still confusing, and absent in restaurants, cafes and takeaways we are unknowingly exceeding our daily recommendation of 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?

Comments
Guest
Kim says:
26 March 2012

Now restaurants have to put the calories on their menus, wouldn’t it be a good time to identify which are the low salt and high salt options?

Guest

Agree! But many of them don’t even KNOW how much salt is in their food! I would be interested to hear if you would read the labels if they were there Kim?

Guest

Having lived in Holland and Germany, I believe that their salt content is way higher than ours. I can’t say for sure, but in comparison, when eating out, food generally tastes a lot saltier when on the other side of the channel.

I personally don’t think that there is much of a problem here, salt is always provided on tables if you need it.

I will never refuse to buy something if their salt content was high, if I want that product, I will buy it, simple. I generally don’t like salty food, but if say I wanted a pepperoni pizza, I accept that there will be a high salt content in it, meaning that I will be thirsty for the rest of the day.

So I personally rely on my own taste buds, if something is too salty to my taste, I don’t eat it. Any time saved in the supermarket is a bonus, hence no time to read what’s in a packet 🙂

Guest

Hi Dean – you are right!
The UK is well ahead of other European countries, so any seasoned traveller (arf arf) would prob notice the difference in salt – Portugal is partic high, as is Germany who aren’t doing anything at the moment, The Netherlands and many other countries are working hard to lower salt levels though so keep me posted if you go back again soon!

Guest
Nicko says:
21 November 2014

You’re spot on, Dean. I have been living in Germany for a decade and have noticed that there is a very large amount of salt in food here. Visitirs from the UK or Australia remark how voliently salty restaurant food is in particular, but even simple food like supermarket cold meats are laden with the stuff. In general the people here are oblivious to these high levels of salt – they have become used to it. I have yet to see any foodstuff in a regular supermarket proclaiming it as low salt or low sodium, it just isn’t something that mainstream Germans have woken up to.

Guest

An earlier Which? Conversation alerted us to the amount of salt in bread. None of the bread I buy has any information on the pack. Two questions:

1. Is bread made with little or no salt palatable?

2. Is there value in switching to low sodium ‘salt’ in manufactured food? (Here I am thinking about LoSalt and similar products that contain potassium chloride and less sodium chloride).

Guest

I have a large loaf of Hovis Original Wheatgerm sitting on my desk.
On the side it says under ‘Nutrition information’
Sodium Per 100g 0.39g : Per 40g slice 0.15g
Equivalent as salt Per 100g 0.98g : Per 40g slice 0.39g

I always thought that salt was, sodium chloride (NaCl)
I think that common salt (NaCl) contains 1g of Sodium per 2.5g.

From the information it seems that Sodium figures are being given as opposed to the total salt content.

My Mum has high blood pressure so her bread is baked at home, we have found.
Bread can be baked without salt, a different flavouring can be added, as salt does affect the flavour.
In normal baking you can put far less salt in than the bread manufactures use, you just let the Bread rise for longer, tastes heavenly.

Guest

It is sodium that we need to worry about with regards to high blood pressure, so it is useful to give the sodium rather than salt content of food. There are other dietary sources of sodium, and monosodium glutamate is a well known example.

In LoSalt and similar products, some of the sodium chloride is replaced by potassium chloride, thus decreasing the sodium content. Many use these products instead of ordinary salt, but I do not know whether they are used in bread and other commercial products.