Reducing Salt Could Increase Cholesterol, Says Study
Cutting back on salt intake could prove more harmful than beneficial, as scientists have discovered that reducing dietary salt may increase the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.
The NHS currently recommends no more than 6g of salt per day (the equivalent of a teaspoon) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) regularly backs campaigns that encourage people to reduce their salt intake, both linking high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases to a salt-packed diet.
However, Danish scientists have discovered that although cutting back on salt lowers blood pressure it also increases cholesterol levels by up to 2.5% and fatty lipids in the blood (triglycerides) by up to 7%.
Researchers found that on top of increased risks of cholesterol, which ultimately increases the risk of heart disease, lack of dietary salt also caused kidneys to produce more enzymes and hormones that regulate the body's salt levels. This means that the body ends up retaining more salt as a result.
The study by Copenhagen University looked into how strong the connections were between salt intake and high blood pressure and heart health by reviewing 167 salt studies.
"In my opinion, people should generally not worry about their salt intake," says Dr. Niels Graudal from the study.
However, eating salt always causes a divided opinion among health experts, raising the question of, 'How much is too much?'
"Most people have over the 6g salt recommendation a day. In the UK, the average man consumes around 11g of salt and the average woman has around 8g of salt per day," Dr Jacquie Lavin, Head of Nutrition and Research at Slimming World told Huffington Post.
"Around three quarters of our salt intake comes from processed food, as salt is used to add flavour and as a preservative. Following healthy eating that encourages you to cook from scratch helps you stay in control of how much salt you are eating as you can choose how much you use. You can also experiment with other herbs and spices to find other ways of adding flavour to your food so that you don't rely too heavily on salt.
"If you're worried about the salt content in pre-packaged foods, use food labels to check for the salt content. Anything more than 1.25g of salt per 100g is considered a lot of salt.
"Some food products will list the sodium content on their food packaging, but not the overall salt content. To get the salt content per 100g of these foods you can multiply the sodium content by 2.5. A sodium content of more than 0.5g is considered a lot of salt," explains Dr. Lavin.
While reducing your salt intake too much could lead to increased cholesterol, there is no doubt that an excess of salt is detrimental, too. Find out more about the hidden salt traps lurking in 'healthy' food and snacks to open your eyes to your daily salt consumption.
Hidden Fat Traps Lurking In Your Food
Dried fruits are a great tasting snack, but beware they are often sprayed with a sugar solution before being packaged.
Sushi can come packed with mayonnaise (or mayo based sauces) as well as other sauces full of hidden calories.
Not all smoothies have potential fat traps - ones made entirely from wholefood ingredients and fresh fruit, are packed with nutrients and vitamins. However, don't be fooled into thinking that all smoothies make a healthy drink. Many processed smoothies are so full of added sugars, syrup, additives and full-fat milk (and sometimes ice cream), that you'd be better off having a large milkshake from your local takeaway.
It may seem like the healthier alternative to a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, but veggie crisps have the same fat content as ordinary crisps.
Frozen yoghurt is usually low in calories - but the sugar content can be sky high.
A tortilla wrap may contain carbohydrate than a slice of bread, but most pre-packed wraps are packed full of hidden fat traps, such as processed meat, mayonnaise and butter.
Many cereals contain a host of different sweeteners to make them more tasty, so make sure you check the sugar content before piling it into your breakfast bowl.
Low Fat Muffins
Choosing a low-fat muffin over a full fut version may seem like a clever move, but in reality, the snack can contain more sugar. This means that not only could your 'healthier' muffin contain more calories, it may be less filling too.
Gluten-free aren't necessarily more healthy. Many gluten-free foods are processed and packaged, meaning they still have the fat traps other foods have.
Rice cakes can be a low calorie snack - as long as you stick to plain and don't pile on the toppings.