A recent study carried out by CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) found that there was a higher level of salt found in various biscuits. CASH investigated 479 biscuits from the major supermarket chains, and found that salt contained in the pack of biscuits can have as much or more salt than the following:
· A chicken nugget
· A fish finger
· Salted popcorn
CASH also found that there were various salt levels, more in the branded biscuits in comparison to the supermarket own biscuits. Some of the traditional biscuits including chocolate bourbons, and custard creams, contain trace levels of salt.
This is quite a concern as data carried out by the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) showed that 60 percent of 19-64 year olds consume biscuits on a regular basis. 80 percent of children under ten years old are consuming them on an average of 1-2 biscuits a week. The maximum amount of salt for a child is lower than an adult at 3 grams a day.
Salt is made up of two components, sodium and chloride. 40% of it is sodium and 60% is chloride. Sodium is a mineral that is not produced by the body, overall it can only be found in food. Sodium has a variety of functions including nerve function control, as well as managing the sodium/potassium pump. The pump ensures that the body remains healthy through controlling blood pressure.
Excess salt can have an impact on our health; as it can raise blood pressure levels, which could cause damage to the arteries, making them weaker. It could also narrow the blood vessels (capillaries, arteries, and veins) causing the walls of the blood vessels to thicken and harden, leading to increased pressure. This affects the blood flow, causing them to reduce drastically, leading to damage to the organs receiving the blood.
The kidneys play a big part in controlling blood pressure; which can be affected if excess salt is consumed. Salt can cause damage to the kidneys, so they become less able to remove the sodium, which can influence the body to retain excess water, and extra water can increase blood pressure.
The UK Government recommends that we should be consuming no more than 6 grams of salt per day. This is equivalent to a teaspoon. This is not a large amount as 75% of the foods that British residents consume and buy contains salt in them. This can mostly be found in processed foods, especially ready meals, tinned foods and various sauces. It is very important to check the labels to see how much salt are found in them, and to look for foods containing lower amounts of salt. The way for searching if food is high in salt is by looking at the nutritional label on the back of the product. Look for the figure stated salt per 100g. If the value is more than 1.5g per 100g it is seen as containing high amounts of salt. If it contains less than 0.3g per 100g, it is seen as containing low amounts of salt. If the value is between the values mentioned above, then it contains a medium amount of salt.
There are different types of labels which mentions and clarifies if a product contains high/low amounts of salt. One of the ways is the traffic light labels. Certain supermarkets use this on the front of their products to demonstrate if the item is high, medium, or low. This is done through the use of certain colours. Red meaning the product is high in a nutrient, amber meaning it contains a medium amount of something, and green meaning it contains a low amount of something. The way to make a healthier choice is the aim to go for products with more green and ambers, rather than products mostly containing red.
Sometimes sodium can be replaced into the food label, and not salt. If this is shown, the figure for sodium should be multiplied by 2.5 to find the amount of salt.
To summarise here are some tips for making healthier choices:
· Make biscuits a treat, try to opt for healthier snacks including fruit, nuts and plain popcorn
· Look at the labels and try to go for the lowest sugar and salt content
· Try to eat smaller and fewer biscuits
· Try to opt for more traditional biscuits including bourbons and custard creams, as they were shown to have lower salt in comparison to the rest of the biscuits surveyed.