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Cutting down on salt and healthy eating
People of African Caribbean descent are more sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of salt compared with other ethnic groups.
Doctors do not fully understand the reasons why salt raises blood pressure more in people of African Caribbean descent but it does mean that you will get more benefit from lowering the amount of salt in your diet than other ethnic groups.
Cutting down on salt can help you to lower your blood pressure in weeks, which lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke.
The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure will be. You should limit your intake to 6g per day. Targets for children are much lower e.g. children aged four to six should only eat up to 3g of salt per day.
Tips on how to eat less salt
Eat more natural foods
Natural foods contain little or no salt. Choose from:
- Low-fat and low-salt dairy produce e.g. natural yoghurt and skimmed milk
- Starch foods like potatoes, cassava, yam, grains, oats and rice
- Fruits, vegetables and pulses (fresh, frozen, dried or tinned with no salt)
- Fresh fish, plain chicken, lean meat, eggs, unsalted nuts and seeds
Eat less processed foods
75% of the salt in our foods is found in processed foods. However many traditional African Caribbean dishes have salt added during preparation or cooking.
Examples of processed foods are:
- Bread and sandwiches
- Tinned and packed soups
- Salted, smoked or tinned fish
- Most breakfast cereals
- Biscuits, cakes and crackers
- Fast foods e.g. chinese and indian takeaways or hamburgers
- Ready made meals e.g. pizzas, pasta dishes or curry
- Meat products e.g. bacon, sausages or tinned meat
- Snacks e.g. crisps or peanuts
- Instant foods e.g. noodles
- Some brands of baked beans
Look at food labels when buying foods
Salt has the chemical name sodium chloride. Sodium is one part of salt, the other part is chloride.
Sometimes sodium is listed on food labels instead of salt.
1g sodium = 2.5g salt
So, if the label lists sodium, to work out the amount of salt from the sodium content you should multiply it by 2.5.
Low salt = Less than 0.3 g salt (0.1g sodium) per 100g
Moderate salt = Between 0.3g salt (0.1g sodium) and 1.5g salt (0.6g sodium) per 100g
High salt = More than 1.5g salt (0.6g sodium) per 100g
Foods that contain salt:
Check the label to see if it lists the amount of salt per serving or in the whole pack. You may not be eating the whole pack, so you need to work out how much salt is in the amount of food you are eating.
It is important to cut down on the amount of salt that you add to your food when you are cooking.
When cooking foods:
Avoid using the following high-salt products to flavour foods:
- Table salt, sea salt, rock salt
- Garlic salt, stock cubes, soy sauce, gravy granules, ready-made mustard pickles, sauces like ketchup or brown sauce
- Curry powders and some spices often have added salt - check the label
Try to use alternatives to salt such as;
- Herbs and spices, peppers, chillies
- Ginger, cinnamon, lemon juice, vinegar
- Annato seeds are used to flavour soups, stews and fish dishes
- Curry powder made from a variety of freshly home ground spices
- Pimento, also known as allspice, is used in pickles, marinades, soups and stews and is an important ingredient in jerking
Jerking is a method of cooking meat and poultry. Meat and chicken can be marinated in a mixture of scallions, garlic, thyme, onion and lemon juice, without having to use salt.
Remember - cutting down on salt can help you to lower your blood pressure