Does salt cause high blood pressure?

We are constantly being told that too much salt is bad for us and has negative effects on blood pressure. But what does that mean and why is it so?

Salt consists of 60% chloride and 40% sodium, and the body needs just a small amount of sodium to conduct nerve impulses, contract and re-act muscles and keep a proper water and mineral balance. The trouble is that too much salt intake can damage arteries and increase blood pressure which may lead to other complications, as well as premature death. Salt has also been blamed for putting us at risk of heart diseases and stroke. It has also been associated with causing cancer and osteoporosis, obesity, kidney stones and kidney disease.  In addition, it leads to the unquenchable feeling of thirst making us drink water excessively which makes us feel bloated and still unsatisfied.


Some foods that are typically contain high amounts of salt are:

  • Bacon, gammon, pork, ham and cheese

  • Smoked foods

  • Chips, salted nuts, pizza, sauces

  • Canned or jarred fruit, vegetables and spreads

  • Ready meals and takeaways as they have been extra-salted for a better flavour

  • Unexpectedly, biscuits, cookies and bread are also high in salt

The Department of Health recommends 6g salt intake per day which is about a full teaspoon but children and people with heart problems should consume less. Foods that contain more than 1.5g salt per 100g (or 0.6 sodium) are way too salty and those that consist of 0.3g or less per 100g, are presumably less harmful for the body.

Reading the food labels as to how much salt they contain, as well as watching how much you add to your food or when cooking is great for a start. Cooking from scratch will allow you to be in control of how much salt you add to your meals. In addition, adding herbs for more flavour is a much healthier than adding salt.

Salt is an important aspect of our diet and our body needs it in order to function well. Being careful with how much salt we take in is key.

Written by Dr. Noel Duncan