Food campaigners in the UK fought for and successfully got food producers to reduce the amount of salt in our most common foods. Salt is a great seasoning and has been a common preservative throughout human civilisation. Most of us love to sprinkle some on fish & chips. Unfortunately, it is potentially dangerous to eat too much and too little. We need it in our diet but too much can lead to heart disease.
About World Salt Awareness Week
World Salt Awareness Week runs for the last week in March every year. It focuses largely on the dangers of too much salt in the diet, aiming to educate people about the mineral’s properties. Each year runs on a different theme but ultimately aims to ask health organisations, groups and individuals to consider the salt levels in food and diet. It’s a common problem in the western world where salt is used as a preservative to keep fast food from spoiling too early; it’s one of the most common forms of keeping food (especially meat) safe for consumption way beyond what is normal.
This Year’s Theme
Each year runs on a different theme. This year’s event, occurring at the end of March, will focus on hidden salt in our food. We make active choices to sprinkle less salt on a roast dinner or on our fish & chips. Sometimes, others make the decision on how much salt we eat. You’d be surprised at the things that contain too much salt. Here are just a few:
- Frozen meals are one of the most common and probably the one about which most of us are aware
- Fast food is another, including those from fried chicken and burger outlets. These places deal with high volumes of meat; salt is used to preserve it
- Takeaway food (different from fast food) especially Chinese
- Deli meat is kept at warmer temperatures than that which goes into the fridge, treated with herbs, spices and salt
- Modern bread types use a lot of salt in manufacture. Look for low salt varieties or make your own
- Fizzy drinks – this also includes diet and low-calorie drinks
- Condiments such as sauces and chutneys
- Ham and other common cold meats
- Crisps and other snack food
- Pizzas from a takeaway or bought from the supermarket
You can control your salt intake by monitoring food labels, choosing low-salt options or changing your habits. Opt for water, smoothies or fruit juice drinks instead of fizzy drinks.
The Dangers of Too Much Salt
75% of the salt we eat is hidden. Concerns about salt intake have dropped in recent years as labelling and salt reduction in food has taken effect. Perhaps we are too complacent today. The health risks associated with eating too much salt are still there, however.
Eating too much salt can raise blood pressure which can lead to a variety of other health problems such as heart disease and stroke. These can cause long-term health problems and exacerbate problems for people with pre-existing conditions. It is believed that 50,000 deaths per year are related to high salt intake, largely the result of preventable heart diseases.
The Dangers of Too Little Salt
While many of us understand the risks of eating too much salt, you cannot and should not cut salt out of your diet completely. There are health risks to doing so. People who drink a lot of water dilute their salt levels and experience symptoms of queasiness, not realising that low salt is the problem. Visitors to North African and Middle Eastern countries are often advised to add salt to cooked food or they might suffer something called hyponatraemia. Salt is responsible for the electrical impulses between nerves that allow our bodies to function. It also aids the body’s ability to absorb potassium. If we don’t get enough of that, we suffer from low mood.