Adding salt to your meal at the table is associated with an earlier death, new research has found.
A study of 500,000 middle-aged Brits has found that regularly adding salt to your food can knock more than two years off your life expectancy for men – and one-and-a-half years for women
This doesn’t include adding seasoning when you’re cooking – an essential part of meal prep – but refers instead to shake that salt you shake on to your food just before you eat it.
The UK Biobank study, followed 500,000 participants for an average of nine years. Each participant was asked whether they added salt to their food and how often they did.
Even though a high salt intake can be bad for us, professional chefs will say salt is the key to making delicious food. Chefs use salt frequently throughout every stage of the cooking process – using different types of salt for different purposes, and often using it much more liberally than you probably do.
“The amount of salt – and butter – used in the restaurant world is much higher than the average home cook is used to,” Keith Sarasin, chef and owner of The Farmers Dinner and Aatma, previously told HuffPost.
“Salting food is part of the process, and a good chef knows how to season. It’s an art form that takes a while to master.”
What does the NHS say about salt?
A diet which is high in salt can increase your chances of having high blood pressure which lead to heart disease and stroke.
Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium) – that’s around one teaspoon, the NHS says.
1 to 3 years should eat no more than 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
4 to 6 years should eat no more than 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
7 to 10 years should eat no more than 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
11 years and over should eat no more than 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium)
You should also check pre-packed food labels to look at how much salt they contain and choose lower-salt options where possible.
What about not having enough salt?
There can also be problems with not having enough salt in your diet. Hyponatremia happens when we have a low concentration of salt in our blood. Sodium helps regulate the amount of water that’s in and around our cells.
Sodium helps maintain normal blood pressure and supports the work of your nerves and muscles whilst regulating your body’s fluids.
Normal blood sodium levels range between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). Anything under 135 levels is considered a low and can lead to hyponatremia.
In hyponatremia your water levels rise and your cells beings to swell which can lead to several health problems.
So, the next time you reach for the salt shaker to sprinkle liberally over your chips, maybe think twice.
But, remember, a bit of seasoning won’t do you any harm.