Do you eat too much salt?

National Salt Awareness Week, an event organised by campaigning group Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH), runs in 2017 from March 20 - 26.

It’s a good time to ask yourself it you eat too much salt, as well as remind yourself that salt raises blood pressure, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks.

According to CASH, while the recommendation for salt intake is 6g a day for adults, most in the UK eat between 7 – 10g a day, which is far more than they need. Here, courtesy of CASH, are the main risks of eating too much salt:

Blood pressure   Salt slowly increases your blood pressure and eating too much is responsible for many thousands of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure deaths each year in the UK. It’s particularly important that children don’t eat too much salt, as blood pressure first starts to rise in childhood. 

Stroke   This is one of the largest causes of disability and the fourth biggest killer in the UK, with an estimated 150,000 strokes and mini-strokes happening each year in this country. Salt is directly responsible for many of these strokes, as high blood pressure is the single most important stroke risk factor.

Heart attacks and heart failure   Reducing salt intake helps prevent high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, heart attacks and heart failure.

Osteoporosis   High salt intake may lead to weakening of the bones and an increased risk of osteoporosis.

Other risks   According to CASH, eating too much salt may also increase your risk of stomach cancer, kidney stones and kidney disease. Salt reduction is also recommended for people with diabetes, as keeping blood pressure in the healthy range helps to reduce the risk of long-term diabetes complications.

So how can you make sure you’re not eating too much salt?

CASH recommends checking food labels to find out how much salt food contains. Most food labels give the amount of salt the food contains, either per 100g or per portion. Try to go for foods with less than 0.3g per 100g (this will be indicated in green on colour-coded labels), and avoid anything high in salt with more than 1.5g per 100g or 1.8g per portion (marked as red on colour-coded labels).

Also try to have more homemade meals, rather than restaurant and fast food, which can be high in salt (if you’re eating at a restaurant, ask if the chef could prepare your meal with less salt).

Try not to add any salt to your food when you’re cooking – try other seasonings instead – and avoid adding salt to your meals at the table too. You may find your food tastes more bland when you first start reducing your salt intake. However, if you stick at it you’ll find your taste buds will adjust, and after two or three weeks you’ll start to savour the real flavour of your food.

Need more information? Download this handy shopping guide from CASH, which gives the amounts of salt in everyday supermarket foods (the guide gives information on levels of saturated fat too). You can also download CASH’s free FoodSwitch app from iTunes or Google Play if you need more help with making healthier food choices. 

Meanwhile, don’t forget to have regular checks to see how eating less salt can make your blood pressure healthier. You can have a blood pressure check at your GP’s surgery, or ask your local Careway pharmacist if they offer blood pressure testing. Many pharmacies do – it’s quick, easy and in most cases you won’t need an appointment.

Find your nearest participating Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.