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Oxford Kidney Unit

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What is salt?

Salt is a chemical made up of sodium and chloride. Rock salt, sea salt and garlic salt all have the same salt content as table salt.

Why reduce the amount of salt in our diet?

Reducing the salt in our diet can help to lower our blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke and heart disease, and it is also bad for the kidneys.

How much salt is too much?

The recommendation is that we have no more than 6 grams of salt per day, but if you can reduce your intake further, that is even better.

Knowing how much salt is in the food that we eat can help us decide what changes to make to lower our salt intake.

Reducing salt intake - information for renal patients (pdf)

What are the main sources of salt?

The main sources of salt from the UK diet are:

  • processed meats e.g. bacon, ham and sausages
  • ready meals
  • jars of cook-in sauces
  • pizzas
  • crisps and other savoury snacks.

Although some of these foods may not seem high in salt, when they are eaten frequently or in large quantities, the amount of salt can add up. Remember to check the food labels.

What do food labels tell us?

Most processed foods have a nutritional panel somewhere on the packaging. This includes information about how much salt or sodium is in the food.

The amount of salt or sodium is usually shown per 100 grams and sometimes per portion of the food.

The panel may also show what percentage of the maximum guideline daily allowance (GDA) of salt or sodium is in the food.

If only sodium is shown, you can convert this to salt by multiplying by 2.5.

For example: 600mg of sodium = 0.6g of sodium = 1.5g of salt.

Some food labels use the traffic light system to help us make healthier choices. The traffic light system gives information on salt as well as fat, sugar and calories, labelling for high, for medium and for low content.

Choosing foods with more green and amber than reds helps us make healthier choices.

Top tips for reducing salt

  • Try using herbs and spices to flavour foods instead of using salt.
  • You can use garlic, vinegar, lemon, pepper, mint sauces and apple sauces.
  • Try making gravy the traditional way with gravy browning and no added salt.
  • Chilli powder and curry powder (not curry paste) are useful flavourings.