09 Mar 2021 Guest Blog: To snack or not to snack – That is the question…
It’s Salt Awareness Week and we are delighted to have Zoe Davies, Nutritionist (ANutr.) at Action on Salt as the author of our latest guest blog – to discuss the results on Action on Salt’s latest survey on the pulse snacks.
When looking for healthier alternatives to crisps or flavoured nuts (which isn’t just fruit or a vegetable crudité!) we may turn to healthier sounding alternatives such as dried chickpeas or lentil ‘crisps’. This Salt Awareness Week, we have looked at the salt content of these snacks because whilst they tend to be lower in fat and higher in fibre – which of course is great – what’s the ingredient we always forget about? Salt!
When we looked at the nutritional information of these products, we found that 43% of them were high in salt and none were considered low in salt. In fact, over half would be considered a high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) product. Despite this, almost all (95%) included nutrition and/or health-based claims e.g. ‘X% less fat’, ‘’source of fibre or ‘all natural’.
It’s easy to get caught up in the benefits of these products with claims like these used on front of pack, but it makes us less likely to look at the rest of the packaging in more detail – this is known as the ‘health halo’ effect.
It’s legal and clever marketing, but we don’t like it. In fact, most people don’t! According to a national online poll conducted on behalf of Action on Salt by Kantar in March 2021, 69% (of 1,248) think it’s misleading to imply a food is healthy if it is high in salt, fat and/or sugars.
So why is salt an issue if the products are healthier in other ways?
A healthy diet is a healthy balanced diet, and that can of course include snacks. As with everything, we can still enjoy less healthy options ‘in moderation’. Unfortunately, we are eating, on average, 8g of salt a day – more than the recommended maximum of 6g a day, which is about a level teaspoon.
A small amount of the salt we eat is found naturally in food, and some salt we add to our own meals, but the majority of the salt we eat has already been added to the food we buy by the food companies. This means we often don’t realise when we are eating too much, especially if we don’t add any salt to food ourselves.
Whilst we all accept the risks of eating too much sugar, the importance of eating less salt seems to have been swept under the rug. Eating too much salt raises blood pressure, the single biggest risk factor for stroke, and puts us at an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease and other health problems. And yet it’s added to food, simply because we think it tastes nice! To put into perspective how important reducing the UKs blood pressure is, it is one of the leading risk factors of death in the UK, having caused over 87,000 deaths in 2019, second only to tobacco.
With the food industry playing a key role in how much salt we eat, they need to be doing all they can to reduce the salt in the food they make, including snacks, so we can continue to enjoy them without putting our health at risk. Our surveys continuously show that is can be done, so we aren’t asking for the impossible.
So, to snack or not to snack? As always, enjoy snacks like these in moderation, and check the labels as you may find similar products lower in salt.
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