Salt (sodium chloride) has been on the table for hundreds of years, preserving fish and meat and enhancing flavours in our food. In the right amount, salt is a vital part of our diet, controlling fluid in the body and helping our muscles and nerves work. However too much salt can cause high blood pressure, leading to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease and is associated with other health problems such as kidney disease and osteoporosis.
The body only requires 1g salt per day and the maximum recommended daily amount for adults is 6g per day (about a teaspoon). About three quarters of the salt we eat comes from foods that we buy. This is due to the natural presence of salt in food or through the manufacturing processes used, particularly for processed and long shelf-life products. Some common foods high in salt include cured meats, cheese, gravy granules, olives, salted and smoked fish, salted nuts and pickles
Our favourite flavour enhancer has the power to wreak havoc on our bodies. The average salt intake for adults in the UK is 8.1g; 2.1g over the maximum recommended daily amount. The body works by using salt to control the liquid we retain: the higher the salt intake, the more water we retain. That’s why we get thirsty when we have eaten very salty foods. So the more water we retain the more it increases blood volume and as this is being pumped around the body there is more pressure on our blood vessel walls causing increased blood pressure. There has been a lot of research that suggests diets high in salt can cause high blood pressure, which in turn can increase the risk of a stroke and heart disease.
Whilst salt is needed as part of a healthy balanced diet it is important to get the balance right. Not adding salt to our food will help. If you are an advocate of adding salt to food when cooking or at the table, this may be difficult as food may taste bland initially. However with persistence or gradual reduction your taste buds will adapt and in time you won’t notice.