Most Salads Have Too Much Salt, UK Study

A British study of 270 salads and pasta bowls purchased from retail outlets, supermarkets, cafes and fast food restaurants revealed that a surprising number of them contained more than half of our daily recommended salt intake.

The survey, conducted by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) found very high levels of hidden salt in salads; in fact, about 10% of them apparently had more salt than a McDonald's Big Mac.

A Spicy Crayfish Noodle Salad from EAT was found to have a whopping 3.51g of salt in each portion, making it 17 times saltier than a Pret No Bread Tricolore with Balsamic Dressing (which contains a mere 0.2g of salt).

The following salads were found to have the highest salt levels:
3.51 g of salt per portion - EAT Spicy Crayfish Noodles
3.2 g of salt per portion - Pret Super (Duper) Humous Salad with French Dressing
3.1 g of salt per portion - KFC Zinger Salad with Caesar Dressing or Low Fat Vinaigrette Dressing
2.9 g of salt per portion - KFC Original Recipe Chicken Salad with Caesar dressing or low fat vinaigrette dressing
2.6 g of salt per portion - McDonalds Crispy Chicken and Bacon Salad with Low Fat Caesar Salad Dressing or Low Fat Balsamic Dressing
Marks & Spencer was found to have 7 of the 10 saltiest supermarket salads and pasta bowls. Top of the supermarket salt-in-salad league were:
2.83 g of salt per 258 g portion
2.65g of salt per 380 g portion
2.4 g of salt per 320 g portion
2.3 g of salt per 380 g portion
2.25 g of salt per 230 g portion
Some ranges of salads branded "Healthy" did have a lower salt content, CASH reported. Sainsbury's Be Good To Yourself Orzo Sunbaced Tomato Salad had a 0.26 g of salt per 270 g portion.

Unfortunately, barely 22% of the 46 salads branded as "Healthy" would get a green (low) traffic light label.

In fact, one seemingly "Healthy" salad - Marks & Spencer Eatwell Tuna with Bean salad, potatoes and red peppers had 2.13 g of salt per 355 g portion - enough to use up over one third of a person's daily salt requirement. Katharine Jenner, CASH Campaign Manager, said:

Many women choose salad as a healthy and convenient lunch, particularly when watching their waistline. Rather than feeling healthy however, they often feel bloated and sluggish, symptoms of 'water retention', which can be caused by the hidden salt in these salads. In the long term the health problems are more serious as salt intake is linked to osteoporosis and high blood pressure. Given the healthy image of salads it's surprising to find that they contain such high levels of unnecessary salt.

The CASH report adds that trying to determine salt content in a salad can often be quite a challenge. None of the fast food chains or high street cafes had any indications of salt content levels per portion on the front of the pack. The investigators also found that salt levels between products in the same restaurant could vary enormously.

A Pret Super (Duper) Humous Salad with French Dressing contained 3.2 g of salt per portion, over half one's daily maximum and 16 times more than a Pret No No Bread Tricolore with Balsamic Dressing.

The good news is that salt content in supermarket salads have dropped, on average by 23% since 2005, from 1.64g per portion to 1.26 per portion today.

CASH added that supermarkets appear to have improved the quality of their labeling.

Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of CASH, said:

It is absurd that only 6 salads contain less salt than a packet of crisps. Clearly the manufacturers still have a long way to go if we are to reduce our salt intake to 6g a day and save the maximum number of lives. Every gram of salt removed from our diet is estimated to prevent 6,000 deaths from heart attacks, heart disease and strokes per year, creating potential healthcare savings of ?.5billion per year.

CASH Nutritionist Hannah Brinsden, said:
Massive variations in the salt content of salads can be seen and salt can be hidden in the dressings, emphasising the importance of checking product labels when buying salads and pasta bowls. Better still, to help beat the feeling of bloating after lunch try making your own salads at home using low salt ingredients such as chicken, tuna, vegetables and pulses.

Salad Survey Full Data:
Download in Word Document
Download in Excel Document
Source: CASH (Consensus Action on Salt & Health)
Written by Christian Nordqvist

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