Should we be worried about excess salt in the diet?
Salt is in more or less everything we eat. From bread to cereals and dairy, there seems to be no escaping it. Did you know over 75% of all salt intake is from meals consumed out of the home or from processed foods? And even 8% of our daily intake comes from vegetables and potatoes (Action on Salt). It is therefore important to monitor salt intake, as over consumption of salt can lead to more serious complications further down the line.
What is the recommended intake?
Salt intake varies dependent on age. For instance, babies should have very little salt in their diet, as their kidneys are not fully developed, and therefore their bodies cannot process it. The table below shows the recommended daily intake of salt throughout the age ranges.
We’re not saying that salt should be avoided, because our bodies require salt for specific functions such as contracting and relaxing muscles, to conduct nerve impulses and maintain the correct balance of water and minerals (Harvard). On the other hand, it is known that Britons are consuming too much salt, on average a third more than recommended. To help reduce intake and support consumers making healthier choices, there is a significant opportunity to produce products with a lower salt content.
The Wales NHS guidance on monitoring the amount of salt we consume is shown in the diagram below.
The over consumption of salt can be an easy mistake to make, as it is added to most things on a customer’s weekly shopping list before they have even reached for the salt grinder.
Why is salt such an important component in food?
If excess salt is so damaging to health, why is it added to almost every food we consume? That is because salt has more uses in foods than just adding a little flavour to a bland dish…
Salt can preserve food…
By adding salt to food, it can alter the availability of water in foods and in turn, stops microbes from using water as a nutrient to thrive. As a result of this, pathogens cannot grow in the presence of salt. Many foods such as fish and meats use this technique. It also helps extend a products shelf life.
Salt is able to change the texture and structure of some foods which it is added to. If we take bread as an example, when salt comes into contact with the proteins within the bread mixture, it is able to alter its structure and interaction with other components, such as water and fats.
When the correct amount of salt is added, bread can look firmer, cheese has more body and meat can also appear juicier. These products then become more appealing to the customer, tempting them to purchase.
As far as cravings go, us humans tend to crave saltier foods and perceive them as more appetising. Within a dish, salt can balance the taste, supress bitterness and balance sweetness.
Binds food together
As previously explained, salt has the ability to change the structure of proteins when added to products such as meat. As this is the case, salt acts as a binder, preventing moisture and fat loss.
How about salt alternatives?
Extensive research has taken place over the past few years on using ‘potassium-based sodium replacer’ as an alternative to salt. The outcome of the research was that the use of such substitute could reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.
In a recent study undertaken by Ipsos Mori for Nutri-Wales, it was discovered that the use of ground seaweed could be a healthy and convenient alternative to salt. When the question was asked to the consumers, 68% would try using a seaweed grinder as a replacement for salt as it was a healthy alternative that could reduce blood pressure. An added bonus of using seaweed as a salt replacement is that it is rich in iodine, a vital nutrient for a healthy diet – especially for vegetarians and vegans.
What do consumers think?
It is predicted that the consumer trend of living a healthier lifestyle will continue to thrive. As it has been proven that consuming over the recommended salt intake can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, consumers are looking to improve their physical and mental wellbeing with the support of food and drink (Mintel).
Do you have an idea to reduce salt intake but need some help and advice? We are on hand to discuss projects and provide support. We can provide you with insight, expertise and project development support and in return all you need to do is dedicate some time. For more information, contact us firstname.lastname@example.org