As the world has become more conscious of the need to eat well for our health, the need to be cautious about our salt intake is still a relatively young concept. This year, National Salt Awareness Week enters its 17th year, and throughout all of this week, from 29th February – 6th March, people are being encouraged to boost their health by reducing the amount of unnecessary salt in their diet.
About National Salt Awareness Week
National Salt Awareness Week was started by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), a group formed in 1996 with the aim of making people aware of the health effects of too much salt. CASH are currently working to reduce levels of salt intake to an average of 6g a day for adults, and less for children – whilst the current average daily salt intake for an adult is 8.1g a day. According to CASH, this will help reduce the number of heart attacks which occur in the UK by 1% and strokes by 22%, saving up to 17,000 lives. Whilst CASH has enjoyed a lot of success working with the government and food manufacturers to bring the salt content of food down, there is still a lot of work to be done to reach their target, making campaigns like National Salt Awareness Week crucial to the cause.
Look out for hidden salt
The theme for this year’s National Salt Awareness Week is ‘Look Out for Hidden Salt’ – referring to the salt content of our food that we might not know is there. Salt continues to exist in high quantities in processed foods and even sweet foods which we might not think contain much salt. During the week long campaign, people are being urged to read the labels of the foods they buy in order to choose options with less salt. The campaign will also target food manufacturers, who CASH believe have a responsibility to produce foods with lower salt content. Everyone from the government to the public is being urged to join the discussion and spread the message using #EatLessSalt.
How to reduce your daily salt intake
There are many ways in which you can reduce your salt intake to make the 6g a day target. Ideas include:
- Always checking the labels when you buy food – especially foods such as ready meals, sauces, pre-prepared meats, sandwiches and of course, children’s meals.
- Cook at home more. By cooking more meals from scratch and using fresh ingredients, you will be aware of how much salt you’re using and have the option of not adding any. Cooking more meals at home can encourage healthier eating habits, as well as provide you with delicious meals.
- Stop adding salt to your food – especially if you know that it already contains salt.
- Use different herbs and spices to flavour your food – you’ll be surprised at all of the great flavours there are out there.
Read other tips on reducing salt content as well as information on recommended guidelines at NHS Choices.
Why it’s important not to cut out salt altogether
Whilst we’ve accepted that too much salt is bad for your health, it’s important not to cut it out altogether. Salt is important for helping our bodies to balance our fluid levels, as well as digesting our food, whilst salt also helps our bodies to be able to contract muscles properly.
Salt is also important for those who live in hot climates, especially those who exercise. Without salt, your body will be unable to stay hydrated as it will not be able to retain the added water that you’re consuming. Eating a salty snack before or after you exercise therefore, alongside your water, will help you stay hydrated and stop you passing out.
So whilst it’s important not to have too much salt in our diet, the recommended 6g a day is enough to help our bodies function properly.
Reducing your salt intake shouldn’t start and end with National Salt Awareness Week. Make sure you start making smarter eating choices now to safeguard your health later on. This useful guide can help you get on your way to reducing salt in your diet for a healthier lifestyle.