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Pass on the salt

Do one little thing for your heart today

Following last month's spotlight on cholesterol and your heart, we look at how reducing your salt intake is another step you can take in the new year to reap big health benefits.

The World Health Organisation recommends that adults should eat less than six grams of salt each day, around one teaspoon in total. And while your body needs a little salt to function properly, you could be consuming too much without realising it – especially if you eat a lot of processed food or dine out regularly.

Hidden salt

Around three quarters of the salt we eat has already been added to our food before we buy it, including sauces, ready meals and less obvious culprits such as processed bread –even effervescent vitamin tablets can have up to 1g of added salt.

"It is the 'hidden' salt in the refined and processed food that we buy that contributes most to our salt intake," says Bupa Medical Director Dr Amit Sethi. "For example, one serving of certain breakfast cereals can contain more than half the recommended daily amount of salt."

Feeling the pinch

Understanding salt's effect on the body and regulating your intake is key to heart health. When you take salt in, it draws water toward it and this causes us to retain more water. If you eat too much, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure, putting strain on your heart and arteries, which is a major risk factor for heart attacks1.

So how can we help moderate our salt intake and protect our heart health?

"One serving of certain breakfast cereals can contain more than half the recommended daily amount of salt.", Dr Amit Sethi

Stop, look, consider

"A rule of thumb is that if something is packaged and processed it will have salt added. When you're shopping – pause and look on the nutritional labels to see how much is in what you're about to buy", says Dr Sethi.

To help you to make those wise choices Bupa has collaborated with The George Institute for Global Health to develop Foodswitch, a free smartphone app, available in a number of countries, that allows you to scan barcodes to get an idea of salt levels in products2. If you're in the UK, you can download the app for IPhone or Android from the App Store, ITunes or GooglePlay.

The taste of health

Over time, regular use of salt can blunt your taste buds, but the good news is that it only takes three weeks for them to adapt and become more salt-sensitive3 - so you get the same flavour impact from less.

To reduce your salt intake without compromising on taste:

  • Check the nutritional information on food labels as the amount of salt can vary between brands and varieties - and try to pick low-salt options and ingredients.
  • Don't automatically add salt to your cooking and at the table – taste it first. As you get used to the taste of food without salt, cut it out completely.
  • Flavour your food with pepper, herbs, garlic, spices or lemon juice instead.
  • Watch out for cooking sauces and seasonings like soy sauce, as some are very high in salt.
  • When eating out, make smart low-salt choices. Avoid processed meats on pizzas and in pasta, order plain rice with curries and salad with dressings on the side, as many processed versions are high in salt.

To find out more about how you can help your heart health, read our articles on cholesterol and alcohol.

Dr Amit Sethi MRCGP Directeur médical, Bupa Global

Sources :

1. Blood Pressure UK -, last accessed in December 2015

2. Bupa Food Switch App -

3. World Action on Salt -, last accessed in December 2015