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Salt: Is a diet high in salt a health risk?

Posted in Personal Health 15 Mar, 2013

It is no secret that Britain has a somewhat love affair with salt, with regrettably many of us eating far too much salt than is needed. This is largely considered to be a key factor to why over the last few years the government’s campaign against our consumption of salt has been relentless. According to the NHS, the total amount of salt that should be consumed by adults is 6g per day, which is approximately one full teaspoon. But recent figures suggest that the average adult Brit consumes as much as 8g of salt per day.

A recent survey may have found one cause behind our cravings for salt with findings exposing the shocking levels of salt used in the dishes of a number of popular restaurants. Such alarming findings show just how much a high salt diet can have damaging effects to your health.

Hidden salts in dishes

The study looked at 700 popular dishes served in well-known restaurants. They found that half of their foods were high in salt and contained up to 2.4 of salt per portion. The study, which was conducted by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), also discovered that meals that were the saltiest contained more than the recommended daily intake. Favourite restaurants like Pizza Hut, Weatherspoons, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway and Wagamamas were just some of the bistros analysed, with 93% of the pizzas comprising of more than 2.4g of salt.

The heath risks

A diet high in salt causes high blood pressure, which though often does not display any symptoms, is responsible for serious health complications such as heart attack, heart diseases, (failure) and stroke. Likewise too much salt in our daily diet has been linked to other severe health conditions such as the thinning of bones (osteoporosis), kidney disease and stomach cancer and is responsible for the needless deaths of thousands of people. According to the Daily Mail, a new study has linked the consumption of excess salt to a variety of autoimmune conditions like eczema, alopecia and asthma. Not only is this new realisation worrying, it is a constant reminder that further action needs to be made by both the government and the responsibility of individuals, to implement the necessary measures to reduce salt intake.

Ways to limit your salt intake

Perhaps what is more frustrating is that such health risks are largely preventable if your salt intake is even slightly reduced,. According to the Department of Health, reducing the intake of salt by as little as 1g per day could save and prevent 4,147 deaths, and would annually save £288m to the NHS.

Fortunately there are ways, in which you can reduce your salt intake significantly, as highlighted by the NHS, who provide a number of helpful tips. These include, shopping for low salt foods, taking care, when purchasing, sauces, ready-made meals, and certain meats. They also suggest using the traffic light system displayed on food labels, to help you identify which foods contain high levels or salt. Cooking with less salt is also recommended, by using alternatives like black pepper, and fresh herbs to add flavour.

Making homemade gravies or sauces as opposed to shop bought ones, which are saturated with large amounts of salt is also encouraged. In relevance to the salt scandal in restaurant’s, the NHS advise that people choose where they dine carefully, making sure to order alternatives and if provided by the restaurant, check the salt (sodium) label. If such changes are implemented than not only will your risk of health complications caused by salt be greatly reduced, but such measures could potentially save your life.

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