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.
The UK's favourite flavour enhancer has the power to wreak havoc on our bodies. The average salt intake for adults in the UK is 8.1g which is 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.
How to keep tabs on your salt intake...
...read food labels! You can tell the level of salt in a product by checking the salt per 100g:
>1.5g per 100g = HIGH
0.3 - 1.5g per 100g = MEDIUM
<0.3g per 100g = LOW
The traffic light labelling displayed on some products will also highlight whether the product contains a high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) level of salt. The food label to the left shows us that it is low in salt as it contains less than 0.3g salt per 100g.
Cutting down on salt intake slowly will make the reduction less noticeable. Try some of the following tips:
- don’t add salt to water when cooking vegetables, pasta and rice
- use herbs and spice to add flavour to dishes instead of salt
- keep salt shakers off the table, out of sight out of mind
- look for unsalted snacks like nuts, seeds and popcorn
- buy reduced salt products such as baked beans and tomato ketchup
- limit consumption of processed foods which are typically high in salt such as cured meats, powdered soups, ready-made sauces and condiments
Pink Himalayan Salt - Is It Better Than Normal Salt?
All salt regardless of its origin, colour or granule size, primarily consists of sodium chloride with other trace elements also present in smaller quantities, exact quantities of these minerals will vary depending on where the salt is sourced from however any variations will be insignificant in terms of their effect on health. Similarly the body does not differentiate varieties of salt, they are all digested in the same way and sodium chloride is broken down and absorbed by the body in one way only. It is claimed that pink Himalayan salt contains less sodium chloride than your average table salt, and therefore contains more trace elements such as magnesium, calcium and copper, making it ‘superior to table salt’.
There is no scientific evidence to support these claims and in the event they were found to be true, any difference in mineral content and composition would be minor, therefore would not be sufficient to make any claims comparing the composition of Himalayan salt with table salt, or any other variety of salt for that matter. You’d also have to most likely consume a lot of this trendy salt to reap the benefits of any higher levels of trace elements. In summary pink Himalayan salt has exactly the same effect on the body as any other salt, the sodium chloride is broken down and the sodium used in the regulation of the movement of water into and out of our cells. When salt is consumed excessively over time it can increase blood pressure which then has a knock on effect on heart health.