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Nutrition: Hidden salts - where salt is hiding in your food

We know that too much sugar is enemy number one when it comes to eating a balanced diet, but too much salt could be harming your health without you even realising, especially when it’s hiding in your favourite foods.

There’s no denying that salt is a vital component of a healthy diet in small amounts – it’s the dangerous excess salt that can eventually lead to anything from high blood pressure and heart attacks to strokes, osteoporosis and asthma.

Government guidelines recommend adults limit themselves to 6g salt per day, yet on average we are consuming closer to 8.1g per day. Even if you’re not heavy handed with the salt when it comes to seasoning your food, now is the time to start checking those food labels.

Take a peek at these seemingly healthy foods which could be hiding more salt than an average bag of crisps:

Bread

This is the largest contributor to salt levels in the UK diet.

Between 2001 and 2011, there was a 17% reduction of salt in bread, taking levels from 1.2g per 100g to 1.0g per 100g on average. This currently stands at 0.97g per 100g on average in 2016.

Chilled pre-made dips

Dips such as hummus, guacamole, salsa, taramasalata and tzatziki are often considered to be the healthier option when it comes to accompanying salads and snacks, but the hidden salt may surprise you.

Hummus very rarely carries a green traffic light label for salt content and some can contain as much as 1.53g of salt per 100g – that’s more than that found in four packets of ready salted crisps.

Chicken breasts

Raw chicken breasts are often pumped up with extra salt and sugar to give the plump appearance and taste. There can be up to 0.45g per 150g raw chicken breast but buying organic reduces the salt content to around 0.2g per portion.

Pre-made pasta sauces and soups

Convenient for busy mealtimes but hiding a lot of salt, these cupboard staples should be consumed in moderation.

For example, pre-made white lasagne sauce can contain on average 0.72g of salt per 94g serving. Wherever you can, make your own sauce with fresh ingredients to keep the salt content as low as possible.

Smoked salmon

Perfect for an indulgent breakfast at the weekend, smoked salmon is high in protein and Omega 3 but you’ll also be consuming up to 3.5g of salt per 100g serving.

Compared to 0.1g per 100g in an unsmoked salmon fillet, it might be worth swapping for a cooked salmon fillet on occasion to reduce your salt levels without missing out on those essential Omega 3s.

Breakfast cereal

Pouring a 30g serving of Special K won’t tip the salt scales over a packet of crisps, but if you’re overly generous with your portions, you could end up with 1g of salt per 100g.

Cornflakes are one of the worst offenders with up to 1.25g salt per 100g (about 0.38g per serving) so be careful when making food choices in the morning.