Salt is the enemy of healthy blood pressure. It encourages your body to store water and excess water in your blood puts extra pressure on blood vessel walls, and in turn raises your blood pressure, which can damage your arteries making them less elastic, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack.
“Current guidelines suggest you have no more than 6g of salt per day, which equates to about a teaspoon,” says Dr Brian Fisher, GP at health and wellbeing app, Evergreen Life. But adults in England have about 8.4g of salt per day on average.
If you eat out a lot or buy processed foods it can be hard to keep on top of your salt intake. Salt is commonly added to many foods, often as a preservative, and can also be found in sauces, salad dressings, sandwiches, processed meats and cheese, cereals and ready meals.
In fact, 75 per cent of our salt intake comes from processed food, with just 10 per cent from the table. (The remaining 15 per cent occurs naturally in foods).
If you do reach for something processed, then be sure to check the labels for the quantity of salt and sugar. Look at the figure for salt per 100g: high is more than 1.5g salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium) low is 0.3g salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium). Items with 400 mg or more of sodium are high in salt.
Look out for terms like disodium phosphate and sodium diacetate in processed foods. Items such as breakfast cereals, canned soups, bread, pastries, pizzas, biscuits, cookies and cakes, processed meats such as sausages, bacon and ham, and sauces, such as gravy, ketchup, mustard, brown sauce and soy sauce can be high in salt.
Chuck out the stock cubes
Cooking from scratch can help you stay on top of your salt intake, and also up your intake of healthy vegetables, which can help with weight loss. But instead of turning to salt and stock cubes, which are high in sodium, for flavour, try seasoning with spices like paprika, black pepper and garlic instead.
“If you do cook with salt, opt for pink Himalayan or sea salt – both of which have been indicated to have some health benefits as they contain dozens of beneficial minerals and trace elements like iron,” says Dr Fisher.