Take it with a pinch of salt! The truth behind a few salty myths
Myth: I don’t add any salt to my food so I know I don’t eat too much
Truth: About 75% of the salt we eat is already in everyday foods such as bread, cheese and sauces, so most of us are eating too much salt without even realising.
Myth: I don’t have high blood pressure so I don’t need to eat less salt
Truth: The risk of disease starts within the healthy range of blood pressure, so most people will benefit from eating less salt. Also blood pressure increases with age, putting us at risk of disease, but with a low salt diet the rise in blood pressure doesn’t occur.
Myth: I only use sea salt and that’s healthier than table salt
Truth: Rock and sea salts are just as high in sodium chloride as table salt so are just as bad for our health, regardless of their healthy image.
Myth: You can tell when a food is salty because it tastes salty
Truth: Some foods that are high in salt don't taste particularly salty. Breakfast cereals, bread, jarred sauces and biscuits & cakes can all contain hidden salt.
Myth: Food with less salt tastes bland
Truth: After 3 weeks of less salt your taste buds will become more sensitive so you get the same flavour from less salt. Stick with it! See how you can also use other flavours instead of salt. How to reduce your salt intake
Myth: I need more salt because I exercise a lot and ‘sweat it out’
Truth: You only lose a small amount of salt in sweat, and as we all eat more than we need, most people won’t need to take on any extra. Remember to keep hydrated.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Answers to some of our most commonly asked salt questions
Q: Isn’t salt good for you? We need it, why do I need to eat less?
A: We need about 1g of salt per day, about a pinch, for our bodies to function, but we’re eating about 7-10g per day. Too much salt puts up our blood pressure, leading to heart disease and stroke, and is linked to numerous other diseases.
Q: Should children have a lower salt diet too?
A: Yes. Our taste preferences are formed in childhood, and high blood pressure tracks from childhood to adulthood, so it’s important not to give children high salt foods. A high salt intake, due to foods such as gravy and salty sauces, is dangerous to babies and very young children. Read more about salt and children.
Q: How much salt do we need per day?
A: We need less than 1 gram per day. The current government recommendation is to eat no more than 6 grams a day; this is about a teaspoon of salt.
Q: How much salt should I be eating?
A: No more than 6g per day
Q: Which foods are the highest in salt?
A: The highest salt foods are processed foods like baked beans, soups, processed meat such as ham and bacon, smoked foods, ready meals, restaurant and takeaway food, some cereals and even bread. It is difficult to avoid eating some of these foods but look for low salt alternatives instead, or eat fresh food which has no added salt. See our Healthy choices - low salt shopping guide [PDF 28KB].
Q: When shopping, how do I know which foods are high, low or medium in salt?
A: Low = Less than 0.30g salt or 0.1g sodium per 100g of food
Medium = 0.30g – 1.50g salt or 0.2 - 0.4g sodium per 100g of food
High = over 1.50g salt or 0.5g sodium per 100g of food
Q: What is the difference between sodium and salt?
A: Sodium is a part of salt, salt is comprised of sodium and chloride.
Q: How do I work out how much salt is in a product if only sodium is labelled?
A: Most labels give both sodium and salt. If only sodium is given, multiply the number by 2.5 to get the figure for salt.
Q: If the recommendation is no more than 6g per day, why do labels have Guideline daily amounts of 5g for women, and 7g for men?
A: Men and women require different amounts of energy and nutrients, such as fat and salt, per day and sometimes labels take account of this. As a rule of thumb, it is simpler to remember that the maximum daily recommendation for teenagers and adults is 6g per day.
Q: Are rock and sea salt more healthy than table salt?
A: No. Rock, sea and table salt are all made of approximately 100% sodium chloride so are all equally damaging to our health.
Q: I like the taste of salt, what alternatives can I use in my cooking?
A:Alternative flavours you could use include herbs, spices -like some curry powders, mustard powder, lemon or lime juice, vinegar, red or white wine, cider or beer, onions, garlic, shallots, ginger, chillies...
If you really can't get used to not having salt with some foods, then try a salt substitute such as LoSalt which contains potassium in place of some of the sodium.
Q: If I eat less salt, wont food taste bland?
A: Only for a short time -stick with it. Within 3-4 weeks your taste buds will adjust and become more sensitive so you will get the same amount of flavour from less salt and will even prefer the taste of food with less salt. You’ll also be able to taste the natural flavours of food.
Q: I do a lot of exercise, should I eat more salt?
A: Unless you’re a top level athlete, no. You only lose a small amount of salt in sweat, and as we all eat more than we need, most people won’t need to take on any extra. Remember to keep hydrated.