31st August 2021
Reducing our dietary sodium intake by eating less salt is an effective strategy to protect the population’s health. Limiting salt intake to less than 6g/day (one teaspoon) for adults can help to reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attacks (1).
To help people to consume less sodium, food manufacturers have developed reduced sodium salt alternatives. They contain up to 66% less sodium compared with regular table, sea and rock salt (see Table 1).
Table 1: Comparison of sodium content in different types of salts*
The lower sodium content is achieved through using a blend of two minerals: potassium chloride and sodium chloride. A recent review found that compared with regular table salt, reduced sodium salt alternatives reduced blood pressure in people with and without diagnosed high blood pressure (hypertension) (2).
Despite the health risks associated with excessive salt intake, sodium is an essential mineral for health and is needed in small quantities to help maintain our blood volume (3). The good news is we don’t need to cut it out completely!
Using a reduced sodium salt alternative means that you’ll be consuming less sodium and more potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral for health. It helps to control fluid balance in the body and plays an important role in healthy heart function (4).
A recent review found that replacing salt (sodium chloride) with potassium (potassium chloride) by 15% to 25% resulted in significant health benefits for the general population including reduced blood pressure, reduced risk of stroke and improved bone health (5).
Healthy adults need approximately 3.5mg of potassium a day which you can achieve by eating a healthy and balanced diet. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, certain vegetables (e.g., broccoli, parsnips and brussels sprouts), pulses, nuts, poultry, fish and beef (4).
When should a Reduced Sodium Salt Alternative be Used?
NHS Change4Life and Action on Salt are full of ideas and inspiration to help flavour your cooking whilst limiting your salt (sodium) intake. As you might expect, some recipes do call for a small amount of salt, for example during baking. When salt can’t be avoided, a reduced sodium salt alternative is useful for seasoning, cooking and baking without compromising on flavour.
Reduced sodium salt alternatives are not suitable for everyone due to its potassium content. People taking certain medications or living with conditions such as diabetes, heart or kidney disorders may have difficulty removing (excreting) potassium from their body. This can increase the risk of developing high potassium levels in the blood, which can negatively impact the functioning of the heart (5, 6). These individuals should consult with their doctor before using a reduced sodium salt alternative.
1. World Health Organization.Salt Reduction. 2020. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/salt-reduction
2. Hernandez AV, Emonds EE, Chen BA et al. Effect of low-sodium salt substitutes on blood pressure, detected hypertension, stroke and mortality. Heart. 2019. Available from: https://heart.bmj.com/content/105/12/953
3. Harry G. Preuss, Manashi Bagchi and Debasis Bagchi. Dietary Sugar, Salt and Fat in Human Health – Chapter 19 – Table salt (sodium chloride): vital aspects of metabolism and blood pressure regulation in health and disease. Pages 395-421. 2020. Academic Press.
4. National Health Service (NHS). Vitamins and minerals. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/others/
5. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Potassium based sodium replacers: assessment of the health benefits and risk of using potassium based sodium replacers in foods in the UK.2017. Available from: www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-cot-statements-on-potassium-based-sodium-replacers.
6. British Medical Journal (BMJ). Sixty seconds on potassium. 2017. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5482
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