To Add Salt or Not to Add Salt?

We know that increased sodium in the diet has a direct effect on increasing blood pressure and is related to increased risk of stroke.

So how does salt have a negative effect?

It contributes to hardening the arteries and so blood can’t flow so well, this increases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke as the pressure builds up.

What do the governing bodies say?

The WHO report that 2.5 million lives could be saved worldwide if we decreased our salt intake. They recommend that salt intake should be <5g/d for adults

The Irish Heart Foundation recommends to keep salt to;

6g/d = 1 teaspoon per day for adults

3g/d for children = 1/2 a teaspoon per day for children

The American Heart Foundation recommend salt to be <4g/d

In other words, aim to keep salt intake to 4 – 6g/d

What if a packet only gives sodium levels?

Then you simply multiply the sodium by 2.5 to get grams of salt

Where does most of our salt come from?

80% of salt comes from processed foods!  If your shopping trolley is full of packeged foods then really you as the consumer needs to be taking responsibility to read labels.  We cannot rely or trust manufacturers and the FSAI are trying to challenge food industries to make further regulations around reducing salt in processed foods.

Can problems arise if we don’t eat enough salt?!

Salt is essential for fluid balance and helps to keep blood volume at the right level so if your body became low in salt you would become dehydrated.  Also muscles and nerves need salt to work properly.  A lot of natural foods like meats, dairy, vegetables and pulses naturally contain salt and this is natures way of the body getting enough salt.  There was a case in the UK where a woman went on an extreme fad diet where by she restricted lots of food groups and drank too much fluid.  This caused brain damage.

Can we get used to less salt?

It takes the tongue about two week’s to get used to a reduced salt intake and then going back to that original salt intake would be difficult.

Top Tips on Reducing Salt:

  1. Look at the labels – aim for less than 0.5g salt per 100g
  2. If salt is near the top of the ingredient list on a product – then avoid it!
  3. Cook with whole foods where possible so you know they are naturally low in salt
  4. If shopping online, you can often check out the food labels on products
  5. Don’t be fooled by the likes of Rock Salt or Himalayan Salt which are advertised as being ‘natural’ and containing other ‘mineral’ – it’s still salt at the end of the day
  6. Low Salt is high in Potassium and is not recommended if you have heart problems
  7. Tinned fish like tuna will be naturally salty – buy in water instead of brine and rinse if you want to get rid of extra salt
  8. Bottled water can be salty, read the label and also it depends how much you drink
  9. Look for reliable information from the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute or the Irish Heart Foundation