Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Watch out for secret salt

Eating healthily isn’t supposed to be difficult, and when you are trying really hard to do the right thing it’s frustrating to find that your ‘healthy option‘has thrown you a curve ball. But that’s what a survey in the news a couple of weeks ago seemed to suggest with its findings showing that some salads were saltier than a burger.

Salt is a tricky one because it’s not always so easy to tell how much a product contains, if any - it looks the same whether there is salt in it or not. And because most of us adults are eating more than our recommended maximum daily amount of salt, which is 6g (about a teaspoon), we are often so used to the taste of it that we’re more likely to notice when it’s not there than when it is. So whereas we may be more alert to the fat or sugar in foods, it’s easy to forget about salt.

This is a problem, because over time, eating too much salt is linked to increased blood pressure. That’s why we believe it’s really important to have clear information on the front of food packaging. Traffic light colours and the words high, medium or low would mean that at a glance you can see what a product is like health-wise. When these two elements are combined with Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) information it’s the ideal combination to provide us with the information we need to make a real choice. At least then we know what we are getting into!

If you battling to understand food labels in your local shop, we have useful tips to help you get to grips with them.

But of course, the report shouldn’t put you off packaged salads entirely - they can be a healthy choice. Encouragingly the survey highlighted that a number of the companies had reformulated their products to reduce their salt content since 2005, which can only be a good thing. If some of the worst offenders also start to follow suit then it will be a real achievement.

For now though, the best way to really know what’s in the food you’re eating (and also to save money) is to make it yourself. Even the most reluctant cook can make a salad, but don’t get stuck in a lettuce, tomato, cucumber rut. Take a look at our recipe finder to add a bit of variety and try our flaked cherry tomato pasta salad or chicken rice salad – four green lights for both of them. Hearty, healthy and tasty - and without a salt cellar in sight!

Our free Heart Healthy Recipe Finder is available as an iPhone app, which even allows you to search for recipes suitable for people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol. You can also access it online through our free Heart Matters service.


Letitia Smith said...

Interesting blog. It is really hard to know what salt is in your food. I do tend to look at the traffic light symbols on food labelling as much as possible. You might also enjoy this blog about the importance of knowing your blood pressure numbers, and making diet changes if they are too high

Tom Godwin said...

Great post, I think many people do not understand the amounts of hiddern salt in the foods that we eat. Especially the processed foods!

I would fully support a traffic light system on food, the more we know about what is in our foods, and the processes used to make them the better nutritional choices we can make for ourselves and our families!