A new study finds that one of the hidden factors upping our daily salt intake turns out to be bread, which can sometimes contain more than a third of the daily recommended salt intake in just two slices.
Just in time for World Salt Awareness Week (this year focusing on the hidden salt content of common foods), researchers with the George Institute for Global Health in New South Wales, Australia, did lab tests on 1439 different bread products, from bread loaves to rolls, bagels, flat breads and English muffins and found unhealthy quantities of salt in many breads, including those considered by many to be healthier such as organic or artisanal breads.
The researchers found the highest levels in a dark rye bread which in one slice contained more than double the amount of salt found in a serving of sea salt potato chips. Artisanal bread Bowan Island’s Wholemeal Sourdough came out with 1.6 grams of salt per 100g serving, while flat breads, especially those with toppings, turned out to have some of the highest salt content, such as the Mission Chapattis Garlic flatbread which contained 2.3 grams of salt per 100g serving. The breads with the lowest amount of salt were found to be Bill’s Certified Organic Health Bakery breads, which contained 0.6 grams of salt per 100g serving.
“We know that excess salt in our diet increases blood pressure and the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease,” says Clare Farrand, lead author of the study and Senior Project Manager for Salt Reduction at the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre on Population Salt Reduction, “so our findings are incredibly worrying especially as many of the products that have the highest levels of salt are perceived by families as being the healthiest.”
Health Canada recommends an adult daily sodium intake of 1,500 mg per day (table salt contains 40 per cent sodium), with an upper limit of 2,300 mg. In reality, however, Canadians eat about 3,400 mg of sodium per day, twice the amount recommended and twice what our bodies need. Sodium is used to control blood pressure and assists in muscle and nerve function, yet too much sodium can result in high blood pressure and in more severe cases, heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver and kidney disease.
Often the difficulty lies in figuring out which food items in a normal diet are the biggest offenders, says Farrand. “The variation in salt levels amongst bread products is huge, which clearly demonstrates manufacturers can produce much lower salt products,” she says.
It is more well known that salt can be found in high quantities in processed foods such as canned soups, sauces and packaged meals, yet there are other surprisingly salty foods. Breakfast cereals can contain an inordinate amount of salt and cottage cheese is often highlighted as a culprit, where one serving can amount to 20 per cent of the recommended daily sodium intake. A recent survey in the United Kingdom singled out hot chocolate mix powder for having 0.8 grams of salt per serving. The same survey also found a Marks & Spencers brand of potato chip that contained 2.8 grams of salt per serving.