6th April 2021
Salt (sodium chloride) is the main source of sodium in our diet. A diet high in sodium has been found to increase blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for heart disease. Approximately 5.5 million people in England have undiagnosed high blood pressure (hypertension), which can increase your risk of stroke, heart attacks and dementia (1). The good news is that a reduction in sodium intake can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing heart disease (2).
Government guidance recommends that daily salt intake should be limited to a maximum of 6g (or 1 teaspoon) per day (3). Food labels commonly list the amount of sodium or salt per 100g and/or per serving.
Despite there being health benefits for a reduced dietary salt intake, the most recent PHE National Diet and Nutrition survey assessing salt intake found that on average, adults are consuming 40% more than the maximum recommended daily intake level (8.4g salt per day compared to 6g salt/day) (4). The government has previously introduced salt reduction targets for the food industry in an attempt to reduce the salt content of commonly eaten foods including processed meats, bread, breakfast cereals and ready meals (5). But there’s clearly more work to be done.
“adults are consuming 40% more than the
maximum recommended daily intake level”
From the finest pink himalayan rock salt to natural sea salt flakes, the sodium content within these products and their risks to health are the same as regular table salt. Companies may claim that rock salt tastes better and requires less for flavour – but these are misleading campaigns.
Some forms of salt do contain more trace minerals (such as calcium, magnesium and potassium) than regular table salt. These trace elements are known to be beneficial to health, however you would need to consume significant amounts to meet the recommended daily intake (RDA) of these trace minerals. The examples below put this into perspective:
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is a much safer way of consuming these essential trace minerals. Potassium can be found in a variety of foods including poultry, vegetables and beans. Magnesium-rich food sources include spinach, nuts and wholemeal bread, whilst calcium can be found in tofu and dairy foods (8).
If you want to add less salt to the dishes that you cook at home, you could choose a reduced sodium salt alternative.
*Disclaimer: Some patient groups (i.e. those with renal or heart disease) need to be careful when using salt containing potassium. It is recommended that you discuss this with your GP.
(1) The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). CVD prevention: detecting and treating hypertension. Available from: https://stpsupport.nice.org.uk/cvd-prevention-hypertension/index.html
(2) Grillo A, Salvi L, Coruzzi P, Salvi P, Parati G. Sodium intake and hypertension. Nutrients. 2019.Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC6770596/
(3) Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Salt and Health. 2003. Available from: www.sacn.gov.uk
(4) Public Health England (2020). National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Assessment of salt intake from urinary sodium in adults (aged 19 to 64 years) in England, 2018 to 2019.
(5) Public Health England (PHE). Salt reduction targets for 2024. 2020. Available from: www.facebook.com/PublicHealthEngland
(6) Fayet-Moore F, Wibisono C, Carr P, Duve E, Petocz P, Lancaster G, et al. An analysis of the mineral composition of pink salt available in Australia. Foods. 2020.
(7) Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Nutrient Intakes. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/384775/familyfood-method-rni-11dec14.pdf
(8) National Health Service (NHS). Vitamins and minerals. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/others/
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