I should cocoa? Even a sweet treat can contain hidden salt
Perhaps it’s because the weather is slightly cooler but I was in the mood for a mug of cocoa.
As I browsed the jars of hot chocolate at the local supermarket, I idly glanced at the nutrition label.
Fair enough – I expected the sugar content to be high. It was – but we’re all allowed treats now and then.
But what surprised me was the amount of salt – one gram per 100g.
I worked out that the large mug I wanted for elevenses would contain one tenth of the recommended daily limit. It doesn’t seem that much, does it? But with the amount of salt which is sneaked into our food – in unexpected places like hot chocolate – it can quickly add up.
In 2002 the average daily salt intake in this country was 9.5g.
A decade later, we’d thankfully managed to reduce that to 8.1g per person.
It doesn’t sound much like we’re moving in the right direction. And it’s much needed.
A high salt intake is associated with high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, heart attack and heart failure.
That small reduction of 1.4g per person?
That’s thought to have saved around 8500 lives per year.
Experts reckon it has reduced heart-related health problems in 20,000 people every year.
The improvement in our health is measurable, and it’s less strain on our beleaguered NHS, too.
Reducing your own salt intake means you can prevent or reduce high blood pressure, so it’s worth keeping it down to less than 6g – about a teaspoon – per day.
But as the hot chocolate demonstrates, this is difficult given salt, the great preservative, is included in so much of the processed food we buy.
So keep an eye on the nutrition labels, most of which have the handy wee traffic light system on them.
Things like soy sauce, pickles and ketchup can contain a worryingly high level of salt, so be careful with them.
Stock cubes are salty too – so you might not want to add too many when making soup.
Herbs and spices are a tasty alternative.
You might feel you “need” salt – but your sense of taste will adjust.
It only takes a few weeks – so stick with it.