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The scoop on salt: need to know facts
Salt is a mineral consisting of the chemical compound known as sodium chloride, an essential nutrient our bodies need to function properly. However, eating too much salt can cause serious health problems. Here we look at the need to know facts to get the real scoop on salt!
With so many irresistibly salty processed foods out there, we have become addicted to the stuff! It’s even lurking in food we wouldn’t think twice about such as cereal, bread and sauces, yet we’re still adding it while cooking and on the table.
How much salt should we be eating?
Salt is an essential part of our diet, the sodium we get from salt helps our bodies balance fluid levels and keeps our nerves and muscles functioning.
Adults should only eat a maximum of 6g of salt a day (but ideally less), this is about one teaspoon which is about 2.5g of sodium.
Children shouldn’t eat more than 5g of salt and for babies, the recommended limit is much lower. Babies younger than one should have less than 1g of salt, this is because their kidneys are not yet fully developed and wouldn’t be able to filter it effectively.
|Age||Amount of salt per day||Amount of sodium per day|
|11 and older||6g||2.5g|
Why is it dangerous to eat too much salt?
High blood pressure
Eating more than the recommended daily amount of salt can eventually cause high blood pressure which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. A diet high in salt disrupts the natural balance of sodium in the body which causes water retention. Water retention puts tension on the blood vessel walls and this strain raises the blood pressure.
Greater levels of salt in the body make your kidneys work even harder to remove water, this reduces their function and can eventually lead to kidney disease.
There is also a link between salt and kidney disease because salt reduces the ability of your kidneys to remove water.
Although salt isn’t directly linked to the cause of obesity, we often associate processed foods like pizza, chips, burgers and fast food with fizzy drinks. Salt increases our thirst which encourages us to drink more, however, if we aren’t eating the right foods we probably aren’t picking the right drinks.
You might not think you’re consuming a lot of salt, especially if you don’t add extra when cooking food or at the table, but what about the salt in food? Salt is lurking in everyday food items like bread, packets of soup, cheese and even stock cubes!
The best way to check how much salt you’re consuming is by following the ‘traffic light’ label on food packaging. Red means high, amber means medium and green is low.
Some labels might even tell you what percentage of your daily intake that food product includes, this way you’ll be able to add up your amounts as the day goes on.
How to calculate the salt content
Sometimes, a food label will only tell you the amount of sodium, so how do you work out the salt content?
Multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5 eg: NaCL (sodium chloride) x 2.5 = salt
How can you reduce your salt intake?
We acquire a taste for salt over a period of time and we get used to various flavours. People worry that food will taste bland without it, but salt doesn’t add flavour, it just enhances what’s already there.
- Ditch the jars of sauces, try making a Bolognese or a curry from scratch and use fresh herbs, spices, black pepper and lemon to enhance flavour.
- Swap salty snacks like crisps and nuts with filling food that will satisfy you for longer such as hard-boiled eggs, yoghurt, fruit and vegetables.
- If you are going to use a packet or sauce, look for a ‘no added salt’ or ‘reduced salt’ label.
- Don’t put extra salt on the dinner table, you’ll be less tempted to add more.
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