Most people these days are aware that giving up smoking is possibly the most important thing to do if you want to prevent heart disease. But according to the World Health Organisation, eating less salt is just as important for heart health.

Eating too much salt can cause raised blood pressure, which is a major cause of cardiovascular disease and accounts for 62% of strokes and 49% of coronary heart disease. A diet that’s high in salt may also contribute to osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney disease, kidney stones and obesity, claims Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH).

Currently, adults are advised to eat less than 6g salt a day (1 teaspoon). But many are eating more and according to CASH, salt intake in UK adults is currently 8.1g per day. If the average diet included 1g less salt, there would be more than 4,000 fewer deaths from strokes and heart attacks each year. Better still, if we all stuck to the 6g intake target, a further 17,000 annual premature deaths could be prevented.

So what’s the best way to cut salt from your diet? Not adding salt to your food can help, but probably not as much as you’d think. That’s because 75% of the salt you eat is found in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals (according to CASH, bread provides about 17% of your salt intake, making it the largest contributor of salt in the UK diet).

Here are some tips to help reduce your salt intake:

Always check the label

Check the label and choose low-salt foods when food shopping. Look at the figure for salt per 100g: High is more than 1.5g salt per 100g (may be colour coded red); Low is 0.3g salt or less per 100g (may be colour-coded green); Medium is between 0.3g and 1.5g salt per 100g (may be colour-coded amber). Buy reduced-salt or no added salt items wherever possible.

Know your salt from your sodium

Some food labels state sodium levels rather than salt levels – and the two aren’t the same. One gram of sodium is approximately the equivalent of 2.5g of salt, so multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5 to get the amount of salt. Alternatively, check the level of sodium – less than 0.12g is low, 0.12 - 0.6g is medium and anything with more than 0.6g sodium is high.

Watch what you eat

Eat foods high in salt less often and in smaller amounts. Watch out for things like condiments and sauces, as they can be high in salt. According to Blood Pressure UK, the following foods are the high-salt types you should avoid (or look for low-salt alternatives):

  • Tomato ketchup
  • Tinned, packet and chiller cabinet soups
  • Beef, chicken and vegetable stock cubes
  • Gravy granules
  • Soy sauce
  • Dried fish
  • Mustard
  • Pickles
  • Curry powders
  • Ready made sandwiches
  • Microwave and frozen ready meals
  • Breaded chicken products
  • Sausages
  • Bacon
  • Ham

Also, choose low-salt foods when eating out, such as pizzas with vegetable or chicken toppings; pasta dishes with tomato sauces; avoid bacon & cheese on burgers; go for plain rice with Chinese or Indian meals; and choose less salty fillings for sandwiches rather than ham and cheese.

Cook with less salt

When seasoning, add flavour by using black pepper, fresh herbs and spices; make your own stock and gravy instead of using cubes or granules; make sauces with fresh ingredients such as ripe tomatoes and garlic; bake or roast vegetables to bring out the natural flavour.

Don’t add unnecessary salt

Don't add salt to your food - taste it first. Many people add salt out of habit, but it's often unnecessary, and your food will taste good without it.

Be snack wise

Avoid salty snacks such as crisps and crackers; instead choose healthy snacks such as fruit and veg.

Looking for the healthy option? Go to our Your health matters website for everything you need to take care of your physical wellbeing. Eat well with nutrition tips and a cook along video. Move more with easy exercise tips and a personal training video. Learn to rest and relax with a simple yoga video.

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