How much salt per day is too much?

Did you know that salt (or sodium) intake exceeds the limit recommended by the World Health Organization around the world?1

I’ll describe how salt affects our health and reveal simple steps we can take to become more conscious about our intake and enjoy low-salt foods.

How much salt should I eat per day?

In the UK, the recommended limit for salt intake in adults is 6g per day2.

Additionally, the NHS recommends that children aged 4 to 6 should not consume more than 3g of salt per day. And for children from 1 to 3 years old, their daily intake should not exceed 2g.

Babies under one year old should consume less than 1g of salt per day because their kidneys are not fully developed and are unable to process it properly.

Sodium and blood pressure

According to Blood Pressure UK, excessive sodium intake is the leading cause of high blood pressure, which affects around a third of adults in the UK.3. On the other hand, we can lower our blood pressure by reducing our salt intake and it may only take a few weeks to see results.

This is important because high blood pressure can put extra pressure on our heart and damage our blood vessels, increasing our risk of health problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and certain types of dementia.4.

Vegan foods high in salt

With the rise of veganism, more and more brands are launching easy-to-go, plant-based foods. Like most convenience foods and takeout foods, these tend to be higher in sodium.

High-salt vegan foods include:

  • Chips
  • Bread
  • Soya sauce
  • Yeast extract
  • Stock cubes
  • Pasta sauces
  • vegan cheese
  • Ready-made sandwiches
  • Tomato sauce and other condiments
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Pizza

We recommend following a whole plant-based diet to reduce your sodium intake

Checking Nutrition Labels

This is a valuable skill because most of the sodium we eat is already in the ready meals we buy and it is important to compare products. A high amount of salt is 1.5g or more per 100g (highlighted in red on the front of the pack) and 0.3g or less per 100g is a low amount.

We can reduce our sodium intake by limiting our use of high-salt products and looking for low-salt options. For example, you may be able to switch to reduced-salt yeast extract and reduced-salt soy sauce. Remember that these small discounts can add up to make a big difference.

Also keep in mind that our taste preferences are flexible, but it may take a few weeks to get used to the new taste.

Low-Salt Meat Substitutes

High-salt meat substitutes are better suited for occasional use rather than providing basic sources of vegan protein.

Beans and chickpeas canned in water, split red lentils, plain tofu, and the dry variety of ground soy without added salt are examples of versatile low-salt protein sources.

Plus, using vegetables as meat substitutes is a great way to provide extra nutrition while maintaining that meaty texture.

If you find yourself relying on prepared foods during busy days, consider embarking on a batch cooking routine to prepare a number of healthy ready meals in advance.

Replace salt with spices to flavor food

Using less salt can give us a new appreciation for other flavors. Here are some ideas that might help you get creative in the kitchen:

  • Experiment with adding chili, ginger, lemon or lime juice, or pepper.
  • If you usually buy flavored tofu, you can opt for the plain variety and its flavor with a generous sprinkle of smoked paprika, or whatever you like.
  • Frying onion and garlic in a little vegetable (canola) or olive oil is a great base for soups, curries and more. If you need a quick fix, a combination of frozen diced onions and garlic granules is a great cry.
  • If you typically use ready-made spices that include salt as an ingredient, consider identifying and purchasing the individual spices for maximum flexibility without added salt.
  • Try different types of vinegar and flavored oil.
  • Growing different types of herbs on your windowsill is a fun way to explore different flavors.

Concerned about your sugar intake? Find out how to eat less sugar and feel better

Image credit: Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images

References

  1. World Health Organization
  2. NHS: Salt – The fact
  3. Blood pressure UK
  4. Alzheimer Society: High blood pressure and dementia