Apparently I once had a dinner-table conversation that lasted over thirty minutes about how much salt is in contemporary diets! While most people know they should cut back on their salt intake, understanding what to look for can cause some confusion. Is a food label high or low in salt and how does sodium convert to salt?
Changes to UK food labelling legislation means that from December 2014 we will see grams of salt instead of milligrams of sodium on our food packaging. As nutritional requirements may refer to either salt or sodium, it is handy to know how to convert sodium to salt and salt to sodium – especially as the labels start to change.
Pass the salt
The World Health Organisation recommends that adults should consume less than 6g of salt a day – equivalent to one teaspoon of salt. However, the reality is that globally we all tend to consume much more salt than this on a daily basis – even in developing countries.
Salt on nutrition labels
Reading food labels is the quickest and easiest way to see whether a food is high or low in salt. Here in the UK the following numbers are used to define whether a food is low or high in salt.
- Low salt – less than 0.3g salt per 100g (0.01 sodium)
- High salt – more than 1.5g salt per 100g (0.6g sodium)
Converting sodium to salt
While the new legislation is being enforced and existing food packaging is being used up we will still see sodium listed on some of the nutrition labels. If you are trying to convert sodium to grams of salt, this simple formula is worth remembering.
- Sodium in mg x 2.5 /1000 = salt in g
Converting salt to sodium
Likewise, if you’re interested in how much sodium there is in a food product when only grams of salt are listed, this formula will help you convert that.
- Salt in g x 1000/ 2.5 = sodium in mg
- World action on salt – Salt facts
- NHS Livewell – Salt
- British Heart Foundation – Salt
- Food Standards Agency/ Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Why 6g? A summary of the scientific evidence for the salt intake
- Powels et al (2013) Global, regional and national sodium intakes in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis of 24 h urinary sodium excretion and dietary surveys worldwide. BMJ Open;3:e003733 PDF