Spring time is the perfect time to de-salt your diet. It’s more important than ever to monitor your salt intake after new research reveals how salt is linked to strokes.
Strokes are the third biggest killer in the UK. Salt is the major factor that raises blood pressure and high blood pressure is a big risk factor for a stroke - responsible for 62% of strokes.
Stroke is the third biggest killer in the UK and the leading cause of severe adult disability. Evidence also suggests that a high salt intake has a direct, independent effect on stroke.
Reducing average salt intake by just 1g per day can prevent at least 2,600 deaths from stroke every year.
High intakes of salt can also lead to an increased risk of heart disease and a high salt diet is also linked to osteoporosis, kidney disease and stomach cancer.
So now you know all that, it is the perfect time to spring clean your diet and get your taste buds accustomed to a heart-healthier reduced salt diet. Here are a few simple tips to help you lower your salt intake:
- About three quarters of the salt we eat is hidden in food, so get into the habit of checking food labels when shopping to spot foods with the lowest salt content. The traffic light labelling is particularly helpful: green means ‘low’ so choose foods that have a green flag for salt content (i.e. contain 0.3g salt/100g or less).
- Avoid buying processed foods which are usually high in salt; instead, cook meals from fresh so you know exactly what is in your meals. Your food needn’t taste bland; there are plenty of herbs and spices to tickle your taste buds instead of salt.
- When eating out, steer away from rich sauces and gravy, select plain meat or fish with steamed vegetables instead to curb your salt intake. And avoid smoked or preserved foods such as ham, bacon, sausage and smoked fish as these are often high in salt. Don’t be afraid to ask the chef to add little or no salt to your food.
Cutting salt out of your diet doesn’t have to be a chore. Be imaginative with your food and take the extra pressure off your arteries by creating some heart-healthy meals using a variety of tasty non-salt alternatives to add flavour.
Try using fresh herbs instead of salt with these quick and easy tips:
- Try experimenting with adding fresh herbs to everyday meals such as cheesy omelette - chives, basil and curly leaf parsley is a great combo.
- Use fresh herbs in homemade soups instead of salt. Try simple and delicious combinations such as carrot and coriander (recipe below), potato and thyme, tomato and basil, butterbean and rosemary, or pea and mint.
- Ditch the salted butter. Instead, try making your own herb butter using your favourite fresh herbs (recipe below). You can slice off a piece to serve melted on top of steak or stir into cooked vegetables.
- Season a roast with lemon or rosemary on roast chicken - very finely chop 2 sprigs of rosemary, mix with 2 tbsp of butter, 1 crushed garlic, clove, the zest of one lemon and half a chilli, chopped, press under the skin of the chicken breast and roast.
- Don’t add salt to boiling water when cooking pasta. Instead stir in fresh chopped parsley and olive oil once cooked.
1. Add 2 tbsp of favourite chopped herbs to a 225g pack of softened butter and mix thoroughly.
2. Lay out a double-layered 30cm piece of cling film and place the butter in the middle of it.
3. Roll the butter in the cling film and make it into the shape of a sausage. Tighten by twisting the ends. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours to set.
4. Slice a piece off each time you need it. Delicious melted on top of steak or stirred into steamed vegetables. Try adding a clove of garlic for added punch.
Classic Carrot and Coriander Soup
Cost: 19p per person
15ml/1tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
450g/1lb carrots, washed and sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
5ml/1 tsp ground coriander
1.2 ltr/2 pints vegetable stock
45ml/3tbsp chopped fresh coriander
squeeze of lemon juice
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
freshly ground black pepper
single cream to serve if liked
1.Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onions, carrots and garlic, sauté for 4mins, until they are beginning to soften but not colour. Stir in the ground coriander and ground black pepper and cook for 1min.
2.Add the stock, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20mins or until the carrots are really tender, then stir in the fresh coriander.
3.Whizz the soup with a stick blender or transfer to a food processor. Add the lemon juice and nutmeg to taste. Reheat until just hot but not boiling and serve. Garnish with a swirl of cream if liked.
Simple Cheese and Herb Omelette
Preparation: 5 mins
Cooking: 3-4 mins
3 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper
a knob of butter
30ml/2tbsp snipped fresh chives
30ml/2tbsp snipped fresh basil
30ml/2tbsp chopped fresh curly parsley
50g/2oz cheddar cheese, grated
1. Beat the eggs with freshly ground black pepper and a dash of cold water. Add half the herbs. Melt the butter in a medium non-stick frying pan and when it’s sizzling, pour in the egg mixture.
2. Cook over a medium heat for 30 seconds or so, then use a wooden spatula to push the cooked egg to the centre of the pan allowing the runny egg to fill the space. Repeat until there is no runny egg left. Cook for a further 30 seconds by which time the base should be golden and the top just set.
3. Scatter over the herbs and cheese, then use the spatula to fold the omelette and transfer to a warm plate. Serve straight away.