Hypertension diet: 4 everyday foods with more salt than a bag of crisps

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It isn’t always obvious when a food is high in salt, especially if the food is also high in sugar. You might be surprised by which four everyday foods contain more salt than a bag of salted crisps. Express.co.uk is joined by an expert nutritionist to bust myths around salt content: including why cheaper salt is actually a healthier choice.

Can you taste when a food is high in salt?

Ordinarily, yes. When cooking, if you add too much salt to a sauce or to your meal, you can taste you’ve gone overboard.

But some everyday foods have high levels of ‘hidden’ salt; meaning you can’t taste how much salt they contain.

Although food companies have to comply with the law by publishing the amount of salt on their label, if you don’t check carefully you may be surprised by the foods containing huge amounts of salt.

Why is salt so bad for you?

Sheena Bhageerutty, ANutr, Assistant Nutritionist at Action on Salt said: “Salt was the leading cause of diet-related death in 2019.

“There’s very strong evidence linking eating too much salt with developing high blood pressure.

“What happens with high blood pressure is you don’t feel it, it doesn’t have any symptoms so it’s often referred to as the ‘silent killer’.”

Sheena says the average Briton eats 8.6 grams of salt per day – way over the recommended maximum limit of six grams a day, and Sheena emphasises this is a MAXIMUM, not a target.

The main culprit for high salt content is processed foods, such as ready meals, but there are many more foods with surprisingly high levels of salt.

Sheena says some foods even use a “health halo”, to appear as a healthy product, but actually have high levels of salt.

The 4 everyday foods with high levels of hidden salt

Hot chocolate

Sheena says: “lots of people might not realise a portion of hot chocolate could have the same amount of salt as a packet of crisps.”

In fact, research from Action on Salt found one high street hot chocolate contained more salt than sea water!

Containing 0.6 grams of salt per portion, this hot chocolate was 16 times higher than the Government’s 2017 target for drinks, and almost double the amount of salt in a bag of ready salted crisps.

So, make sure you check the label – even if you think ‘sugar’ is the one to watch out for.


Sheena says: “Bread is actually one of the biggest contributors of salt to our diet, particularly if you have bread with multiple meals, for example having toast at breakfast then a bagel for lunch.”

Fresh Soup

One fresh chicken soup from a popular brand contained 1.5 grams of salt per portion – and that’s before you season your bowl with salt and pepper at home.

Frozen pizza

Ready meals are one of the main culprits when it comes to high levels of salt, while frozen pizza can contain less salt than takeaway pizza, it’s still pretty high!

One frozen pizza from a UK supermarket contained 3 grams of salt per pizza: half of your maximum recommended daily amount.

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‘Healthy’ snacks

Sheena says: “So-called healthy snacks, such as crisps made from lentils or chickpeas, may seem to be so much healthier than your standard packet of crisps, but they contain unnecessarily high levels of salt.”

Action on Salt surveyed 119 pulse-based snacks and found 70 percent were “high in salt”, meaning they contain more than 1.5 grams of salt per 100 grams.

How to eat less salt

It’s clear there’s hidden salt everywhere, so as well as being mindful of how much salt you add when cooking, you will have to check the labels of all your food when you’re doing the weekly shop.

Sheena recommends an app called FoodSwitch. Using this app you can scan the barcode of your food items, and the app will let you know the salt content, and recommend similar foods containing less salt.

Sheena also suggests avoiding high-salt stock cubes, and making your own vegetable stock with leftover vegetable peelings.

Ramping up your flavour games with seasonings other than salt can help too.

Sheena says: “Use more spices and citrus instead of salt to add flavour to food. My favourite at the minute is oregano, garlic, lemon and chilli flakes.”

Lastly, don’t fall for fads. Sheena says despite hype around himalayan salt and other types of rock salt, these are more expensive and not any “healthier” than regular salt.

Sheena says: “Because finer grain salt tends to taste saltier you actually use less. As some salts, like himalayan salt, have a less strong flavour, you can actually use more.

“There’s no point spending that much, you’re better off using finer grains and table salt.”

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