Experiment with alternative ways of adding flavour to food instead of picking up the salt cellar - that is the message from the Public Health Agency (PHA) during Salt Awareness Week (26th March – 1st April 2012).
Eating too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure, which often has no symptoms but which is a major factor in the development of strokes and heart disease - leading causes of death and disability in Northern Ireland.
Research shows that men eat more salt than women and on average have a higher blood pressure than women, particularly at a younger age. Men are also less likely to have their blood pressure checked or to take action to reduce it when it is raised.
Thousands of lives could be saved each year if people decreased their average salt intake, as this is turn could reduce cases of heart disease.
Angela McComb, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager, PHA, said: “The PHA encourages all consumers to take an active approach to reducing their salt intake. There is a fantastic array of flavourings that can be used as alternatives to salt, including herbs, spices, chilli, garlic, lemon or lime juice, vinegar, mustard to name a few.
“But you don’t have to add salt to food to be eating too much as salt is already present in the food we buy and this accounts for about 75% of the salt we eat. Some foods are almost always high in salt, for example ham, bacon and stock cubes. And for other foods, such as pizza, sandwiches and breakfast cereals, the amount of salt they contain can vary widely between different brands or varieties. Reading product labels can help us to choose ones which are lower in salt, help to reduce our salt intake and improve our health.
“Often the information on food labels lists sodium, rather than salt content. To work out how much salt is in the food, simply multiply by 2.5; so, for example, if the label on a pizza shows that it contains 0.5g sodium per in a quarter pizza, this means that a quarter of the pizza provides 1.25g of salt.”
As a rough guide, a food that has more than 1.5g salt or 0.6 g sodium per 100g is classed as being ‘high’ in salt; a food that has 0.3g salt or 0.1g sodium per 100g is ‘low’ in salt.
Angela added: “Even though salt is an essential part of our diet, it is important that it is taken in moderation. Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day, and children even less - children under 1 year should have less than 1g salt (0.4g sodium) per day and children aged 1-3 years no more than 2g salt (0.8g sodium) per day. Reducing the UK’s average daily salt intake for adults to 6g could prevent about 17,500 deaths from heart attacks and strokes a year.”
For further information on National Salt Awareness Week 2012 visit http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/
Contact the Public Health Agency on 028 9055 3663