The mineral sodium occurs naturally in sodium chloride – or common salt. Humans have added salt to food for thousands of years, both as a preservative and as a flavor enhancer. In modern times, processed, prepared and fast foods add high levels of 'hidden' salt to our diets, with the result that many people today consume too much. High-sodium diets are linked to a number of serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney failure.
Do not add any form of salt to cooking or at the table. This includes rock salt and sea salt which are very similar to table salt. You may find fairly quickly that your sense of taste adjusts so that you no longer like the taste of salt.
Canned goods are generally high in salt, so try to use fresh, unprocessed food e.g. vegetables, fruit, fish, chicken and meat, which all contain only very small amounts of salt.Levels of salt and food labelling
Most processed foods are now labelled with the amount of salt that is in the food. Unfortunately, these labels are difficult to understand. Your total daily consumption should be no more than 2gm of sodium
per day, which means 5gm of salt. The easiest way to avoid salt is to stick to a couple of rules:
- Avoid all foods that have more than 0.2gm of sodium per 100gm. Examples include:
- Cornflakes = 1.1
- Bread = 0.5 - 1.2
- Cheese = 0.6 - 1.4
- Ideally only eat foods containing less than 0.1gm of sodium per 100gm. There is a HUGE difference between the levels of sodium in fresh and processed foods. Examples include:
- Fresh Fruit = 0.0 - 0.01
- Vegetables = 0.0 - 0.02
- Fresh Meat = 0.05
- Fresh Fish = 0.5
Foods with low salt content include:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses and lentils
- Pasta, rice and potatoes
- Some cereals (without salt and fat). Porridge is low in salt; do not add any when making it.
- Unsalted nuts
- Olive oil for cooking
- Herbs, spices, chilli, garlic, ginger, lemon juice - to enhance the natural flavor of food
- Meat, especially chicken (with skin removed)
- Fresh fish (not battered or smoked)
Foods with high salt content include:
- Processed meat products usually contain very large amounts of salt e.g. ham, bacon, sausages, hamburgers, meat paste/pate, canned meat. The sodium content varies between 0.8 - 2.0gm per 100gm.
- Smoked or canned fish
- Meat and yeast extracts, stock cubes
- Snacks - potato chips, salted or roasted peanuts
- Salted or flavored (e.g. cheese) biscuits or crackers
- Canned vegetables, baked beans
- All bottled sauces, ketchup, chutney, salad cream
- Bread contains about 0.5 - 1.1gm of sodium per 100gm. Some supermarkets sell bread with less salt.
- Most breakfast cereals are very high in salt, e.g. cornflakes which contain 1.1gm of sodium per 100gm. Some, however, contain very little - as always, read the labels.
- Cheese, particularly hard and blue cheeses