Salt & Blood Pressure

A low salt diet and healthy eating to lower your blood pressure and improve health.

The amount of salt – sodium chloride – that we eat has a direct effect on our health and blood pressure. The more salt we eat the higher our blood pressure. This is true, not only in people with high blood pressure, but also in people with normal blood pressure. A high sodium salt intake also causes other health damage, such as greater retention of water in your body, which leads to swelling of the ankles and weight gain. Too much salt also worsens thinning of the bones (osteoporosis), asthma and kidney disease and is closely related to cancer of the stomach. Therefore, everyone should cut the amount of salt they eat to improve their health.

The Food Standards Agency issued salt intake targets for adults and children. The target for adults is to cut their salt intake from the current amount of 10-12 grams per day (two teaspoonfuls) to 5-6 grams a day (1 teaspoonful) or less. Salt intakes for children depend upon their age, but are considerably less than for adults. If you can reduce your salt intake more this will lower your blood pressure further.

Keep off the salt – reduce the sodium in your diet!

How can I reduce the amount of salt I eat?

The salt – sodium chloride – that you put in your own cooking or add at the table is obvious, but only a fraction of our salt intake comes from salt that we add. The rest comes from salt hidden in food, ie processed, restaurant, canteen food, etc. Most people are completely unaware that these foods contains so much, for example, bread is the biggest source of salt in the UK diet, and makes up one-quarter of our intake. You can either cut down or cut out processed foods or read the label on processed foods and only eat those that do not contain large amounts of added salt.

To see the impact on lowering your blood pressure by reducing salt in your diet many people find encouragement in regularly measuring their own blood pressure with automatic digital home monitors – follow this link for more information about recommended accurate blood pressure machines.

How can I reduce my salt intake and lower my blood pressure?

Ways to cut down the amount of salt you eat:

Your taste buds get used to the large amount of salt in processed foods. When you stop, food with less salt will taste bland. However, your taste buds adapt very quickly so that after about three weeks you will find that food with much less salt in has a strong salty taste and foods with a lot of added salt taste very unpleasant.

  • Do not add salt to your food at the table
  • Sea salt, rock salt and garlic salt are almost identical to salt and should not be used.
  • Most sauces used at the table are also very high in salt, eg, tomato ketchup & soy sauce.
  • Do not add salt to cooking

This includes not adding salt to the water you use for vegetables, pasta and rice etc, and avoiding stock cubes, gravy browning, soy sauce and salted dried fish, all of which are very high in salt.

Instead of salt try other flavourings and use fresh foods:

  • Any fresh, frozen or dried herbs
  • All spices
  • Lemon and lime juice
  • Vinegar
  • Red or white wine, cider or beer
  • Onions, garlic, shallots, ginger, chilies, etc
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Avoid manufactured or processed foods that have salt added

This is the most difficult to do as there is a large amount of salt in processed or packaged foods and it is difficult to know from the food labels how much has been added. For example, the main source of salt in our diet in the United Kingdom comes from bread and some breakfast cereals.

Read the salt label on food

Salt is sodium and chloride. At the moment most food labels only state the amount of sodium in the food. This is shown as fractions of a gram of sodium per 100 grams of food.

You need to multiply the sodium concentration by 2.5 in order to convert it to salt, ie, sodium and chloride.

In other words, 1 gram of sodium = 2.5 grams of salt.

A simple guideline is avoid foods that contain more than 0.2 grams of sodium per 100 grams of food and choose foods that contain less than 0.1 grams of sodium per 100 grams.

The aim is to get your salt intake to less than 5 to 6 grams a day (or lower if possible), which is the same as 2 grams of sodium (one teaspoonful).

Cutting down on salt is well worth it. The lower your salt intake, the better your health and the lower your blood pressure is likely to be and, once you are used to it, the food that you eat tastes fantastic, with real natural flavours.