How much is too much salt?

The World Health Organisation says reducing salt is as important as stopping smoking when it comes to reducing heart disease. Too much salt increases the risk of stomach cancer and osteoporosis, and raises blood pressure – a major cause of strokes. But surveys suggest only half of us check how much salt we’re eating.

Salt vs sodium

Some food labels only provide the sodium content. This is not the same as salt content.

1g sodium = 2.5g salt

This means the 6g adult daily salt guideline is equivalent to only 2.4g of sodium per day. So check labels carefully.

'Low sodium' salts

These contain potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride. But while the sodium content is less, too much potassium is also a health risk for people with certain kidney and heart problems.

Is sea salt better?

Sea salt and table salt are the same - sodium chloride. So the daily amount of 6g applies equally to both types.

Although, as sea salt has larger grains, a pinch of sea salt probably contains less salt by weight than a pinch of table salt.

Simple salt swaps

You can make a big difference just by swapping to lower-salt versions of your usual meals.

  1. Some ketchup brands have five times the salt of others. Three big dollops of the most salty ketchup would be all of a three-year-old child's daily limit of salt (2g).

  2. Half a typical tin of beans and a slice of toast is over 50% of a six-year-old's daily limit. Buying reduced-salt beans will cut that significantly.

  3. A takeaway or delivery pizza can have as much as 6g of salt - the whole of an adult's daily limit in one meal.

  4. Make your own sauces. Pasta, curry, lasagne and soups will all taste better and contain much less salt if you make the sauce from scratch. Cook in big batches and freeze them for a steady supply of quick, healthy meals.

  5. Swap salt for spice using fresh or dried seasonings such as chilli, garlic, cumin, lemon juice and black pepper.

  6. Cured fish and meats can be very high in salt, so choose fresh options.

  7. Cut back on salty crisps and snacks and opt for crunchy vegetables, fruits or low-fat crackers.

  8. Salt is an acquired taste and you can get used to having less. The more you eat of it, the more you want it. Hide the salt shakers and go cold turkey to reduce your cravings in the long-term.