Some ‘healthy’ snacks have been found to be saltier than the concentration of seawater and could be sabotaging our health, say Action on Salt
Their product survey reveals just one 45g serve of either Love Corn Salt & Vinegar and Love Corn Habanero Chilli contains more salt than 3.5 bags of Walkers Ready Salted crisps
The group found that over half of ‘healthy’ snacks are considered a high fat, salt and/or sugar (HFSS) food, but the majority do not display colour coded labelling on front of pack
In an analysis of 119 snacks including dried/roasted pulses and processed pulse snacks (lentil curls, chickpea chips and puffs),which are often perceived as ‘healthy alternatives’ to the usual snacking options (i.e. crisps and flavoured nuts), the findings are raising serious concerns amongst experts – especially given reports of increased snacking during 2020 compared to pre-Covid.
Despite these products being (on average) lower in fat, saturated fat and calories, and higher in fibre compared to standard crisps and flavoured nuts, over one in three (43%) are also high in salt (i.e., more than 1.5g/100g) – a forgotten ingredient that raises our blood pressure and puts us at an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks.
The saltiest product surveyed is Eat Real Hummus Chilli & Lemon Flavoured Chips with 3.6g/100g salt, and over 1g salt in a single suggested serve (28g) – more salt than 2 bags of McDonald’s small French fries.
Amongst dried/roasted pulses, corn style snacks were (on average) the saltiest at 1.85g/100g, and more salt than salted peanuts
The saltiest dried pulse snacks surveyed are Love Corn Salt & Vinegar and Love Corn Habanero Chilli, with 2.8g/100g salt – saltier than the concentration of sea wateri. Just one 45g serve of either of these snacks (1.3g salt) would provide over a fifth of our maximum daily salt intake and more salt than 3.5 bags of Walkers Ready Salted crispsii!
Whilst many products are high in salt, the data also presents a wide variation in salt content for different snacks, demonstrating that they can be made with less salt
One in three snacks surveyed also specify the use of sea salt, which is often perceived as healthier than standard salt, but in fact research[xi] has shown they all contain the same levels of sodium and are therefore equally damaging to health.
What’s more, the Government recently announced plans to restrict the promotion of some unhealthy food[xii] (i.e. only foods which fall under the current sugar and calorie reduction programmes), yet it is not clear whether these snacks will be included in the programme – even though half (55%) of these seemingly healthier products are HFSS. To ensure salt levels are reduced across all products, including so-called ’healthy’ snacks, it is imperative that Ministers announce the successor to Public Health England, to take on their vital salt reduction work.
Sonia Pombo, Campaign Manager at Action on Salt says:
“We should all be eating more beans and pulses, but there are better ways of doing it, and eating processed snacks high in salt is not one of them. This important survey has put a spotlight on the unnecessary amounts of salt in ‘healthy’ snacks, and the use of nutrition claims on HFSS foods need to be questioned. Instead of misleading their customers, companies should be doing all they can to help us all make more informed decisions, including using front of pack colour coded labels.
Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Salt says:
“Reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure to lower blood pressure and reduce the number of people suffering from strokes and heart disease. It’s therefore a disgrace that food companies continue to fill our food with so much salt – especially those enticing consumers into purchasing these so-called ‘healthy’ snacks, when they are the exact opposite. For too long the food industry have been in charge of public health, at our expense; it’s time for the Government to take back control.”