Health: Six favorite salt-filled foods — and alternatives you can use instead
Salt, salt, salt… We love it on our crisps, salt and vinegar crisps are a snack staple, and who can resist salted caramel chocolate?
Even when it’s not a ‘main’ ingredient, salt is present in much of what we eat, even when we’re not really aware of it.
However, excessive salt intake is not good for our health and is linked to an increased risk of major problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults consume less than 5g (about 2g of sodium) of salt per day, while the NHS suggests consuming no more than 6g of salt per day (2 .4 g of sodium).
“This is a maximum, not a goal,” says Aliya Porter, registered nutritionist and member of Nutritionist Resource. “The average salt intake for adults in the UK is 8g, and too much salt can also lead to weakened bones and therefore also increase the risk of osteoporosis.”
We need a certain amount of salt – or rather sodium, which is found in salt – it is an essential nutrient which, for example, helps maintain normal nerve and muscle function and regulate blood pressure. However, we can usually get all the sodium we need from foods without having to add any.
“Salt and sodium are often confused but somewhat distinct,” says Rohini Bajekal, registered nutritionist at Plant Based Health Professionals. “Salt, a chemical compound made up of sodium and chloride, is what we add to foods. Sodium is the dietary mineral found in foods and is especially high in processed foods that contain preservatives. It is sodium that is linked to harmful health problems.
Want to reduce your salt intake? To mark Salt Awareness Week (March 14-20), our experts highlight some of the biggest salty culprits and the alternatives you can choose instead…
“Pizza dough contains salt because it helps form the structure of bread. But the toppings we put in are often high in salt too – especially cheese and processed meats like pepperoni or Parma ham,” explains Porter. “A leading brand pepperoni pizza contains about 40-50% of your daily intake in a single serving (half a pizza). Most people eat more than that.
“Using less cheese by grating it more finely and opting for vegetable toppings or replacing processed meat with unprocessed tuna or chicken will reduce the salt content.”
As Porter points out, “Soups are often high in salt because of the broth they contain. If you are making your own, you can either make your own broth, use reduced-salt broth, or skip it and use onions. , garlic, herbs and spices like cumin or curry powder for extra flavor.
“Soups have about 1g of salt per half can – most of us eat the whole can, and that’s before adding the slice of bread you have with the soup – 17% of our recommended maximum , or 33% if we eat the all can.”
“We don’t often think of soy sauce as high in salt, but it is,” Porter says. “Purchased fish sauce and stir-fry sauces are often high in salt. For a reduced-salt stir-fry, use Five Spice, spring onions, garlic and fresh ginger for extra flavor and opt for a reduced-salt soy sauce.
“Soy sauce has about 8g of salt per serving. Stir-fry sauces about 9g per serving. About 15% of our recommended maximum each.”
4. Processed meats, like ham and bacon
Just like we love a BLT or ham sandwich, Bajekal says to replace the tofu and tempeh (soy) with a low-salt option. “Both have significantly lower salt levels: 7mg versus 1700mg in some cases.”
5. Processed sugary breakfast cereals
Sugary breakfast cereals are often loaded with hidden salt and sodium. “Swap for oatmeal, which is also a source of most vital vitamins,” Bajekal says.
Cheese can be super salty on its own. If you’re eating cheese sandwiches, there’s the salt in the bread and any added condiments or butter to consider as well. “Swap for sandwiches with avocado salad, which is also higher in fiber and healthy fats. Use mixed grain bread,” suggests Bajekal.
What about those fancy salts with higher price tags?
“Salts such as Himalayan pink salt, sea salt (like Maldon sea salt) and rock salt are all about 99% sodium chloride, which is the same as salt” , explains Bajekal. “Regardless of the color or price of the salt you buy, the sodium in all of these salts is what is linked to adverse health effects such as hypertension (high blood pressure) in children and adults. ”
How to satisfy your taste buds without salt
What if you really like the taste of saltier foods and can’t imagine cooking without it? Luckily, there are plenty of healthier ways to add flavor.
“Soy sauce – substitute low sodium soy sauce or better yet choose salt-free flavorings like lime or lemon and herbs and spices including fresh garlic, ginger, chilli and rice vinegar,” explains Bajekal. “Adding a fresh squeeze of lemon, lime, or flavored vinegar (like balsamic vinegar) can bring the flavors to life in a salt-free dish.
“Cook with dried herbs and spices – garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, turmeric, cumin, paprika, cinnamon and fresh ground pepper are just a few- one of dozens of herbs and spices with incredible nutritional properties,” adds Bajekal. “These add tons of flavor without the need for salt.”
Fresh herbs are another option. “Add a bunch of fresh cilantro, basil, mint or parsley to a dish like a salad, stir-fry or stew, so you don’t need a salty substitute. antioxidants in the meal,” says Bajekal. .