The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging people to keep a close eye on their salt intake during National Salt Awareness Week, which takes place this week.
The theme for this year’s awareness week is ‘Less Salt Please’, with the aim of encouraging people to take control of the salt in their own food by simply using less salt during cooking and at the table and replacing it with alternative flavourings, such as pepper, lemon juice, vinegar, herbs and spices.
Angela McComb, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager, PHA, explained: “Eating lots of salt can increase blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to strokes, heart failure and heart attacks, the leading causes of death and disability in Northern Ireland. Hypertension often has no symptoms, but if you have it, you are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.
“The PHA encourages all consumers to take an active approach to reducing their salt intake by checking product labels and preparing more of their food at home. Seventy-five percent of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, so by reading product labels to determine whether a product is high or low in salt, we can significantly reduce our salt intake and improve our health.
“Often the information on food labels lists sodium, rather than salt content. To work out how much salt is in the food, simply multiply the figure by 2.5. For example, if the label on baked beans shows that they contain 0.4g sodium per half tin, this means that half a tin of the beans provides 1g of salt.
“Even though salt is an essential part of our diet, it is important that it is consumed in moderation. Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day, and children even less. Reducing Northern Ireland’s average daily salt intake for adults to 6g could reduce the number of deaths from heart attacks and strokes every year.
“The easiest way to reduce your salt intake is to stop adding extra salt to your food during cooking and at the dinner table. If you regularly add salt to food when cooking, try adding less or using herbs, spices, chilli, pepper or lemon to add flavour instead of salt.
“When you sit down to eat, taste your food first to see if you really need to add salt.
“By following these simple suggestions, you will be taking the first steps towards reducing your blood pressure and improving your overall health.”
Public Health Agency