Salt is a really important ingredient in cooking, but a little can go a long way and in this country there is real concern about how much we eat – particularly through processed foods. Amazingly, 75% of salt in our diet comes from processed food such as breakfast cereals, bread and biscuits – and ready-meals can also be packed with added salt.
It’s a real concern for both adults and children because it increases blood pressure, which can put you at risk of strokes and heart disease. Processed food often has a lot of salt in it because it helps flavour and preserve food, so the best way to limit your salt intake is to prepare your meals and snacks from scratch. This way you’re in control of how much goes in, and know exactly how much salt you’re eating. Jamie and I have discussed all sorts of ways to reduce the amount of salt we eat, and how much goes into his recipes. You should always taste your food before seasoning, because then you will only add what you need. Some natural foods have salt in them, so when you’re cooking with cured meats, bacon, anchovies and some cheeses, you may not need to season your food as much – if at all. There are also ways to reduce the need for salt, such as using fresh herbs and spices that add a depth of flavour and even have health benefits themselves.
You should also get into the habit of reading the food labels on ingredients so you know which foods contain more salt. Typically, nutritional information on a food label will show you the amount of each nutrient in 100g, in one portion, and as a percentage of your guideline daily amount (GDA), which is how much an average person at a healthy weight can consume. Make sure you check which is being shown because it makes a big difference!
The recommended maximum daily intake of total salt in the UK is 1 gram for children aged 1-3 years; 3 grams for children aged 4-6 years and 5 grams for children aged 7-10 years. Adults and children from the age of 11 should have no more than 6 grams per day – the same amount as in the picture on this blog. To put that into perspective, two slices of bread contain about 1g of salt, and a serving of breakfast cereal contains 0.5g.