A low sodium diet is recommended for people who are worried about blood pressure and heart disease. While it is easy to cut out foods that are obviously salty like potato chips, sodium can be found in unexpected places. The British health organization Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) recently conducted a survey which discovered that large amounts of salt are being added to cheese.
Katharine Jenner, the campaign director for CASH, said "We already know most cheese is high in fat; however we often add it to our meals without thinking how much salt it contains." The results of the survey confirm this thinking. Of the 30 varieties of 772 cheeses evaluated in the CASH study, many had more salt than a bag of chips: .52g per 30g portion.
Not all cheeses contained the same amount of salt. Those looking to reduce salt intake would do well to stick with mozzarella, emmental, and Wensleydale cheeses. Roquefort, feta, and halloumi have the dubious honor of containing the largest concentrations of salt.
The specific brand of cheese also has a role to play in the amount of salt consumers eat. The CASH study found one brand of Gorgonzola that had six times the amount of salt as another brand. Processed cheeses are also high in sodium. Jenner says "it's worth looking at the label and choosing a lower salt version of your favorite cheese, or just use a little less next time you get the grater out."
Reducing your salt intake can have a huge effect on the health of your heart. If you enjoy salty snacks like cheese and chips it can be difficult to find substitute snacks. Here are a few low-salt snack ideas:
Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are the favorite suggestion of dieticians everywhere. Fruits offer a sweet treat any time of day, and many come in a portion-controlled size. Vegetables offer the same satisfying crunch as a bag of potato chips without the sodium and fat. Both fruits and vegetables provide fiber and many of the essential nutrients that bodies need to operate at their best.
Yogurt: Yogurt is an excellent way to get the calcium you may be missing out on by lessening your cheese consumption. It is also a good source of protein, something that will help you feel full longer. Finally, yogurt and fruit can be combined into a smoothie for a delicious, low sodium snack.
Nuts: Like yogurt, nuts are a great source of filling protein. Many types of nuts also contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – nutrients that promote a healthy heart. When choosing nuts, make sure you select the unsalted varieties.
Low-Sodium Grains: If you are not sure if you are ready to give up your favorite snack foods, keep a close eye on labels. Low-sodium versions of snacks might be available. Look for pretzels, air popped popcorn, rice cakes and whole grain crackers.
Is All Cheese Bad?
While some cheeses can add a significant amount of salt to your diet, this does not mean you must avoid them completely. If you are not under any dietary restrictions, a moderate amount of cheese can make for a healthy, calcium-rich snack.
Some cheese makers do not agree with the findings of the CASH study. Registered nutritionist and director of the British Dairy Council Judith Bryans points out that "the CASH survey is mixing up the effect of cheese on health with the effect of salt on health. Salt is an integral part of the cheese-making process. It is not added for taste or flavor but for safety and technical reasons."
Whether it is consumed in a bag of potato chips or a slice of cheese, excessive amounts of sodium can have a detrimental effect on people’s health. A salt-heavy diet can increase blood pressure, which raises your risk for conditions like stroke or heart attack.
Eating a healthy amount of salt all comes down to moderation. While the CASH study does illuminate some lesser-known aspects of cheese, when eaten sensibly there is no reason to avoid it completely. Stay within the recommended allowance of 6 grams of salt per day – inclusive or exclusive of cheese.