Salt, too much?

I recently spent a few days with a good friend of mine who I consider to have a very healthy diet.  She added food to every meal we ate,  which I found quite surprising as I never add salt to restaurant meals because I believe they are salty enough, and although I do tend to add salt when cooking it’s not much, and I won’t add it if I’m using ingredients that I already consider to be salty (stock cubes, Parmesan, bacon).

I believe this is partly due to news articles that I’ve read telling me that we all consume too much salt, but I decided to do a bit of research to see if this was correct…….

According to the NHS website we shouldn’t be consuming more than 6g salt (2.4g sodium) a day, which is just over a teaspoon of salt.  This isn’t a lot, especially considering that it is widely thought that most people get 75% of their salt from ready made or processed foods.  It certainly isn’t a problem if you are cooking all your meals from scratch, but even I can’t claim that, and when we eat out the chef will obviously add salt to our meals.

So what about too little salt? Known as Hyponatremia the evidence is less clear, it is widely agreed the majority of the developed world eat far too much salt.   Cutting it out completely is bad, but that would be pretty much impossible in the modern world.  And our bodies are suprisingly adept at conserving salt if it needs to.  So discounting elite athletes and certain illnesses such as severe vomiting or diarrhoea we don’t need to be worried about low salt levels.

So why is too much salt bad for us?  Too much salt causes raised blood pressure and, according to the NHS,  1/3 of adults are affected by high blood pressure.  Those with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or heart conditions, and 22% of the UK’s premature deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases.  Pretty sobering thought and certainly enough evidence to make me put that salt cellar back on the table.

So, my conclusion?  Don’t add salt to anything unless you are the one preparing or cooking it and you know how much has already been added.

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