Salt Awareness Week is an international campaign to help people understand their salt intake and how it can affect all aspects of a person's health. This year's Salt Awareness Week is focused on cutting down on salt, without reducing flavour.
It's the 20-year anniversary of the UK's Salt Awareness Week. It's a nationwide campaign backed by Public Health England, the NHS and Action on Salt and many other organisations involved in public health – many other countries will also be taking part, from the 8th - 14th of March. The 2021 Salt Awareness Week is focused on bringing 'more flavour, less salt' to our daily diets1.
There has never been such a wide range of salts available to consumers, ranging from table and Kosher salts to more obscure Himalayan, Pink and flavoured varieties. No matter what it's called or what 'unique properties' a salt has; it's still salt and consuming too much will affect your health. Surprisingly, only 18% of the salt we're consuming is added by us, the consumer. The UK gets approximately 21% of its salt from naturally occurring sources including meat, fish and many other foods. The remaining 61% of salt sneaks into our diet via processed food
It's thought that a nationwide salt reduction program could save the UK £1.64 billion by reducing the number of people who will develop heart disease and other vascular issues3. Many diseases and disorders are directly affected by a high salt intake; heart attack, stroke, diabetes, dementia, osteoporosis, kidney issues, water retention and stomach cancer have all been implicated. Getting the UK to say no to excess salt will extend lives and save money in the long run. The NHS recommends adults to consume no more than 6g of salt per day – Salt Awareness Week campaigners want a salt reduction program that would help people to hit this target, by educating the public and cracking down on the hidden salt in our diets4.
The Saltiest Foods of 2021
Ready-mixed spice blends, stock pots and other 'flavour enhancers' are notoriously high in salt. Many pre-packaged or ready-to-eat foods are sneakily salty, even if they don't taste it. According to research from Action on Salt, Cornish pasties, sausages, pies and quiches were among this year's worst offenders, containing over 2g of salt per portion5. But olives take the crown for saltiest food per portion, with some supermarket brands containing an astounding 5g of salt per 100g serving – that makes them over twice as salty as seawater!
Always double check the ingredients in a product before you buy. Many foods have a green-amber-red section on printed their packaging – this is a quick way to gauge how healthy a product is, without having to read through the often long and complicated ingredients list.
More Flavour, Less Salt
If you can't bear the thought of giving up salt then look for low-sodium alternatives. These still contain some salt, although much less than normal products. This year's salt-week slogan is 'more flavour, less salt' – by using herbs, spices and other seasonings and aromatics, you can enjoy a meal that's equally as tasty as its full-salt counterpart. Here are some easy-to-follow tips and tricks being discussed this year1:
- Using the bold flavours of chilli or garlic to keep your meals tasting great.
- Adding fresh, frozen or dried herbs to dishes to maximise flavour
- Changing how you cook your food; roasting, grilling and frying can add more flavour and texture to many recipes
- Reducing our servings of sauces and dressings, which are often high in salt
- Choosing low-salt options wherever possible
Get Involved: Salt Awareness Week
You can find more information about how to cut down on salt by visiting the Action on Salt website for a full list of events here. From the 8th - 14th of March, you can take part in free, online presentations delivered by leading experts in the UK and abroad, with topics including reducing blood pressure, policy and legislation, salt education and more. Some of these lectures are aimed at researchers and other professionals, but they can be just as valuable, insightful and interesting for people of all abilities and interests.