Eating too much salt is the biggest cause of high blood pressure – the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure will be. Salt makes your body retain water. If you eat too much, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure. This can be a particular problem if you have high blood pressure. Also, eating too much salt may mean that blood pressure medicines, such as diuretics, don’t work as well.
Therefore cutting the amount of salt you eat is one of the quickest ways to lower your blood pressure (especially if you have high blood pressure). However this is easier said than done as most of the salt we consume is already in food we eat.
How much salt is too much?
An adult should eat no more than 6g of salt a day, but most of us eat much more than this – the latest data shows we’re consuming around 8g a day. Although current intake is down from 8.5g in 2011 and 8.8g in 2005/2006 it’s still too high.
By reading food labels, you can see if a food is low, medium or high in salt (do not confuse with sodium, see below):
- Low – 0.3g salt or less per 100g of food – Eat plenty of these.
- Medium – 0.3-1.5g salt per 100g of food – Eat small amounts occasionally.
- High – 1.5g salt or more per 100g of food – Try to avoid these.
Tips to eat less salt and help your blood pressure
- Don’t add salt when cooking. This includes salty foods like soy sauce, stock cubes and gravy granules.
- Get extra flavour with herbs and spices, and from seasonings like chilli, ginger, lemon or lime juice.
- If you really can’t do without a salty favour, you could try using a small amount of low-sodium salt substitute. If you have kidney problems or diabetes, check with your doctor or nurse first.
- At first, food without salt may taste bland, but don’t give up. After a few weeks your taste buds will adjust and you will start to enjoy food with less salt. 6g of salt a day is the maximum you should eat, and the less you eat the better.