Excess salt is not confined to frozen pizzas and chips. It sneaks into a number of unsuspecting foods.
There are public health organizations for almost every nutrient in the grocery store these days, it seems. One such group is the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), which is concerned with getting British residents’ salt intake under control. Currently, the average person takes in 8 grams of salt a day, which is one third more than the daily recommended amount of 6 grams (approx. 1 teaspoon, or 0.2 ounces).
The U.K. government even set a target several years ago for no food product on supermarket shelves to exceed this salt content by December 2017. Now that the end date is approaching, CASH followed up with a study and found that bread is the only foodstuff out of 28 categories that’s even close to meeting the official target of 1.13 grams of salt per 100 grams of food.
Campaign director Katharine Jenner describes salt as a “forgotten killer,” as it’s been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. It is a popular additive in the food industry because it makes otherwise bland food taste delicious, but unfortunately, when eaten in large quantities over a long period, is very unhealthy. CASH estimates that, if adults in the UK were to reduce their salt intake to 6 grams, then 17,500 deaths could be prevented each year.
Jenner says: “The findings from our survey are alarming and we are shocked to see that many food manufacturers and retailers are still failing to meet the salt reduction targets, despite having had years to work towards them… With only nine months to go, action must be taken now.”
Most of us have heard about the high sodium content of prepared meals and snacks, as well as restaurant meals, especially fast food, but there are other lesser-known foods where salt is found in surprisingly high quantities. Here are some salty foods you should know about, outlined by The Guardian:
1. Hot Chocolate
This is an important lesson to learn: Just because something tastes sweet does not mean it has a low salt content. The sugar can mask the salt effectively. One brand of premixed hot chocolate, complete with marshmallows, was found to have a whopping 0.8 grams per 25 gram serving.
2. Breakfast cereal
A serving of Kellogg’s cornflakes has 0.34 grams of salt, which is the same amount found in its sweeter cereals, like Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and Caramel Bites granola. (Interestingly, Cornflakes in the United States are less salty, measuring only 0.24 grams of salt for an equivalent-sized serving.)
3. Pre-packed salads
A salad from the deli is a surprising source of salt. From The Guardian: “Waitrose’s hot-smoked salmon and potato salad has 1.6g of salt, more than a quarter of your maximum level; Tesco’s chicken and bacon pasta salad contains two servings, each with 2.3g of salt.” Dressings can be salty, too.
Maybe this one won’t come as a surprise, but some cheese are saltier than others, such as feta (2.51 grams of salt per 100 grams) and halloumi (2.71 grams).
5. Savory Spreads
Peanut butter, margarine, cream cheese, hummus and other seemingly-healthy dips can be very salty. Be sure to read the nutrition labels when choosing. In a study from last year, CASH found:
“One of the saltiest hummus products was Tesco’s caramelized onion hummus (1.6g per 100g), while 100g of Marks & Spencer’s version contained 1.53g of salt – more than is found in four packets of ready salted crisps.”
Those tasty appetizers that make gatherings classy are unfortunate sources of salt. Olives, anchovies, and cured meats may be enjoyed in small servings, but they pack a salty punch at the same time. “A single fillet is a serving – and contains 9 percent of your daily salt allowance. Have you seen the size of an anchovy fillet? It’s barely bigger than krill.”
When making dietary changes, however, it is important to look at the big picture. Salt should not be singled out as a reason for the health problems of the developed world, since there are other factors, such as excess sugar, fat, and lack of physical exercise.
Please consult a doctor before making any significant dietary changes, especially since salt, in smaller quantities, is required by the human body.