If you’re making a conscious effort to eat well, chances are that you don’t add salt to your cooking, so you might wonder why you’d need to know how to cut down on salt. I would say that I had a low-salt diet, as I don’t add salt to my cooking and although I could eat salty chips all day every day, I very rarely have them. But in reality, there’s salt in everything and I’m eating way more of it than it might first appear. According to the NHS, around 75% of the salt we eat comes from everyday food such as bread, cereal and ready meals.
Why you should cut down on salt
A diet high in salt is strongly linked to high blood pressure, which can put you at risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. This is because eating too much salt makes the body hold on to water, which puts a greater strain on the heart.
Official government guidelines are that adults should have no more than 6g of salt a day (equivalent to 2.5g of sodium) but charity Action on Salt has found that the average man consumes 9.3g of salt daily.
How do I know if I’m eating too much salt?
Unless you’re keeping an eye on your intake, it can be very easy to eat too much salt without realising it. If you’ve noticed your body swelling or you feel bloated, have frequent intense thirst and suffer from persistent brain fog it’s likely that you’re eating too much salt. But tracking your salt intake is very easy – calorie counting apps like MyFitnessPal allow you to do it, and the salt content of food is usually displayed prominently on labels.
How to cut down on salt
Cut out the table salt
Yes, I know how delicious hot, fluffy chips are with half the salt shaker tipped over them (or is that just me?) but it’s really not necessary. You may add salt to your meals out of habit, but don’t add it to your meals without tasting your food first as you may find it doesn’t even need it.
Find other ways of adding flavour to your food and experiment with using herbs and spices instead. Pepper is a good one to add when cooking vegetables, and paprika is delicious with chips or wedges.
Cut down on processed food
We’re not going to get all preachy on you and insist that you dedicate yourself to clean eating, but when shop-bought sauces are high in salt, sugar and calories you have to wonder why you bother with them.
Making your own sauces can be very simple – making a bolognese with passata, a squeeze of tomato puree and a shake of oregano is just as delicious and just as easy as opening a jar of Dolmio. As well as being lower in cals, it’s also going to be a lot cheaper and will be lower in salt too.
Check the labels
Pouring over nutritional information is a bore, I know, but it couldn’t be easier to see if a product is high in salt if you’re shopping at any of the major supermarkets thanks to the ‘traffic light’ system of displaying nutritional information, which may seem simplistic but is a handy way of seeing at a glance if the levels are too high – if it’s red, it’s high and should be eaten in moderation.
Make the switch to low-salt products
This is a very easy way to make a difference in your salt intake. Some products such as gravy, stock cubes and soy sauce are all very high in salt, but there are low-salt alternatives available. You can even get low-sodium table salt which has 66% less sodium than normal salt if you find you really miss the taste of it.
Be prepared when eating out
Although it’s difficult to know how much salt is in dishes when eating at a restaurant or from a takeaway, there are a few things you can keep in mind. Cured meats such as bacon and pepperoni are always high in salt and some cheeses like cheddar cheese are high in salt too, so swap these for things like chicken, vegetables and low-salt cheese like mozzarella. Dressings can be high in salt and calories so ask for them on the side so you can control how much you add to your food.
- Tips for a lower salt diet – NHS
- What happens to your body when you eat too much salt – PopSci
- Low-salt dinner recipes – BBC Good Food