A diet high in salt can cause raised blood pressure, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Is salt bad for you?
Yes and No. Our bodies need salt to balance fluids in the blood and maintain healthy blood pressure and for our nerve and muscle function, therefore we cannot remove salt completely from our diets. There are recommended levels of salt that we can safely consume; if we eat a diet high in salt over these levels then we are increasing the risk of a raised blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, fluid retention and osteoporosis.
What is the recommended level of salt in a healthy diet?
Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium) – that’s around 1 teaspoon.
- 1 to 3 years should eat no more than 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
- 4 to 6 years should eat no more than 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
- 7 to 10 years should eat no more than 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
- 11 years and over should eat no more than 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium)
Babies should not eat much salt, because their kidneys are not fully developed to process it.
Babies under 1 year old should have less than 1g of salt a day.
Salt Consumption in Wales
In Wales in 2017, the mean estimated salt intake for those aged 11 years and over was higher than the maximum recommended intake. Mean estimated salt intake was 7.8g/day for children aged 11 to 18 years, this was 29% greater than the recommendation of no more than 6g/day.*
Mean estimated salt intake was 8.4g/day for adults aged 19 to 64 years, this was 41% greater than the recommendation of no more than 6g/day; 9.7g/day for men aged 19 to 64 years and 7.3g/day for women aged 19 to 64 years. *
Mean estimated salt intake was 7.1g/day for adults aged 65 years and over, this was 18% greater than the recommendation of no more than 6g/day.*
How to reduce your salt intake
You don’t have to add salt to your food to eat too much of it – around 75% of the salt we eat is already in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals.
1. Cut down on high salt foods
Eat these foods less often and have smaller amounts
Anchovies, bacon, cheese, gravy granules, ham, olives, pickles, prawns, salami, salted and dry-roasted nuts, salt fish, smoked meat and fish, soy sauce, stock cubes, yeast extract.
2. Compare brands
The salt levels in these foods vary because of the way they are made – always check the label
Bread products such as crumpets, bagels and ciabatta, pasta sauces, crisps, pizza, ready meals, soup, sandwiches, sausages, tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and other sauces, breakfast cereals
3. Cook with less salt
There are lots of alternative ways to cook and add flavour, so if you usually add salt to food when cooking then try some different ways.
Try adding pepper to season. Use fresh herbs and spices. Bake or roast veg to bring out their flavour.
4. Make Smart choices when eating out
You can reduce the amount of salt you eat by choosing lower salt foods from the menu.
As a general rule avoid pepperoni, bacon, sausages or extra cheese. Plain rice is lower in salt than pilau or egg fried rice. Go easy on the dressings and sauces as they can be high in salt and fat.
A Word from our GP
Dr Clarke says
“Look out for the salt content in the everyday foods you buy, and choose lower-salt options. Nutrition labels on food packaging now make this a lot easier. This may show the salt content as a percentage of your reference intake (RI), or have colour-coded nutrition information to show whether the salt content is:
• green (low)
• amber (medium)
• red (high)
Try to eat high-salt foods only occasionally, or in small amounts, and aim to mainly eat foods that are green or amber. “
Things to remember
• Read the Labels
• Swap snacks with high salt content for healthier options
• Don’t add salt to your food when cooking
• Small changes in your choices can make a big difference
Change 4 Life
Change 4 Life have an app that you can download which allows you to scan barcodes to find out the salt levels in your food. https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/food-facts/salt
British Heart Foundation
This short leaflet from the British Heart Foundation is for people with or at risk of high blood pressure. It explains how eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. It provides practical tips on how to cut down on salt.
National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Results from Years 2-5 (combined) of the Rolling Programme. Executive Summary. Wales. REVISED JUNE 2017 15