One of the quickest ways to lower your blood pressure (especially if you have high blood pressure) is to eat less salt. Below we show you how.
Salt raises your 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 salt, 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 as they could.
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.
Most of the salt we eat every day is "hidden". Roughly 80% of the salt we eat is hiding in processed foods like bread, biscuits and breakfast cereals, and prepared ready meals or takeaways. Only 20% comes from the salt we add while cooking or at the table.How do I measure how much salt I'm taking in?
How to cut down on salt to lower blood pressureTo avoid the hidden salt and cut down your salt intake, it is best to eat foods that are low in salt and stop using salt when cooking or at the table.
By reading the food label, you can see if a food is low, medium or high in salt:
- Low - 0.25g salt or less per 100g of food - Eat plenty of these
- Medium - 0.25-1.25g salt per 100g of food - Eat small amounts occasionally
High - 1.25g salt or more per 100g of food - Avoid these completely
What sodium levels mean
Some labels may not say how much salt the food contains, but they may say how much sodium it contains. Sodium is one of the chemicals in salt, and 1g of sodium is the same as 2.5g of salt.
- Low - 0.1g sodium or less per 100g of food - Eat plenty of these
- Medium - 0.1-0.5g sodium per 100g of food - Eat small amounts occasionally
- High - 0.5 sodium or more per 100g of food - Avoid these completely
If the label does not say how much salt or sodium the food contains, look at the ingredients list. The closer to the top of the list salt appears, the more salt the food is likely to contain.
8 ways to eat less salt and help your blood pressure
- Don’t add salt when cooking. This includes things like soy sauce, curry powders and stock cubes.
- Get extra flavour with herbs and spices, and from seasonings like chilli, ginger, lemon or lime juice.
- Table sauces like ketchup, mustard and pickles can contain a lot of salt. Check the label and choose low-salt options.
- Bread and breakfast cereals can contain a lot of salt. Check the labels to compare brands.
- Smoked meats and fish contain a lot of salt. Avoid these if you can.
- If you are eating out, ask if your meal can be made with less salt. This may not be possible, but it is always worth asking.
- If you really want a salty favour, use a small amount of low-sodium salt substitute. If you have kidney problems or diabetes, check with your doctor or nurse first.
- Look out for low-salt recipes. There are a number of low-salt cookbooks available, or you can search for recipes on the internet.
At first, food without salt can 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.