Eight foods surprisingly high in salt

Maldon sea salt on black background
Maldon sea salt on black background

You know that eating too much salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke – but knowing exactly how much you're eating can be tricky.

It's not the salt that you add to your dinner that's the problem (though you should watch that, too!), it's the amount of salt hidden in everyday foods.

See also: Ten surprising ways to lower your blood pressure

See also: Ten surprising things that could be raising your blood pressure

Current guidelines suggest eating no more than 6g of salt a day for an adult, yet in the UK, we eat an average of 8.1g salt a day - and millions of people are likely to consume even more than that. As well as increasing your blood pressure, eating 12g of salt a day doubles your risk of stomach cancer, which kills more than 6,400 Britons a year, according to Cancer Research UK.

Here's a guide to some of the worst offending foods...

1. Bread
Bread may not taste that salty, but the average slice of bread (white or wholemeal) contains 0.4g salt. A 2011 survey found that more than one-in-four loaves of bread sold in supermarkets contained as much salt in every slice as a packet of crisps. Have two slices of toast for breakfast and a sandwich at lunch, you will have had half your daily salt recommendation in bread alone. Spread on salted butter and that increases even more. For a healthier option, look for low-salt breads in health food stores.

2. Bacon
Eating lots of red meat (particularly processed and cured meat) has been linked to increased risk of stomach and bowel cancer. If you're watching your salt intake, there's a good reason to give up bacon.

According to Consensus Action on Salt and Health, just two rashers of bacon can contain more than half the daily maximum recommendation of salt [6g] per day. Some bacon contains three times more salt than others from the same supermarket. Among the brands found to contain the highest amounts of salt were Tesco thick-cut smoked back bacon containing 3.8g per two grilled rashers, and Morrisons Saver streaky bacon with 3g per two grilled rashers.

3. Cereal
Surprising as it may sound, some brands of cereal are almost as salty as seawater. As a healthier alternative, opt for Shredded Wheat and Puffed Wheat which has no added salt. You can also buy low-salt brands of muesli.

4. Soup
Whether bought tinned, fresh in cartons, or as instant dried mixes, soups are one of the worst offenders for hidden salt in food. Cream-based varieties that include bacon or ham tend to have the highest salt content, but even some healthier vegetable soups still contain more than a third of our recommended daily intake.

CASH found many soups that contain more than 3g of salt per 250g bowl. Amongst the worst offenders are Eat Bold Thai Green Chicken Curry (8.07g per portion); Caffè Nero Organic Carrot & Coriander (3.6g), Pret A Manger Lentil & Bacon (3.39g); New Covent Garden Food Co Scotch Broth (2.4g), and Batchelors Soupfulls Classic Beef & Vegetable (3.0g).

5. Pizza
Many family-size pizzas can easily contain more than 6g salt, while just one slice of thin and crispy pepperoni pizza can contain 2.8g of salt. A Stuffed Crust Sausage & Pepperoni pizza from Papa John's was found to have 16g of salt, while Domino's Pepperoni Passion BBQ Stuffed Crust Mozzarella contained 13g of salt. Supermarket options aren't much better. Chicago Town Large Takeaway Pepperoni pizza (645G) contains 8.4g of salt.

6. Digestive biscuits
You might not think of sweet things as being particularly salty, but cakes and biscuits can contain surprisingly high amounts of salt. A single digestive biscuit can contain 0.25g salt - meaning that just four biscuits take up a fifth of your daily salt quota. Munch your way through half a packet and that soon adds up.

7. Pasta sauces and condiments
They might be convenient, but think twice before you next buy a jar of pasta sauce. Not only are many brands high in sugar, they're also surprisingly high in salt. Dolmio Tomato Red Lasagne sauce contains 4.1g of salt per 500g jar. Loyd Grossman Tomato Chargrilled Vegetable Pasta Sauce has nearly 3g of salt in a 350g jar.

It's not just pasta sauces. Things like mayonnaise and tomato sauce can also be surprisingly high in salt too. Heinz Tomato Ketchup contains 0.3g of salt per 15g serving – but if you eat more than the standard small serving, as most of us do, that can soon add up.

8. Salad
What can be healthier than a nice crispy salad? Thanks to salty and fattening dressings, some salads are anything but healthy.

Pizza Express' Grand Chicken Caesar Salad has 5.3g salt per serving, the equivalent of two and a half Big Macs, and almost your whole day's recommended allowance. Morrisons' Chicken & Bacon Pasta Salad contains 2.8g salt, while Marks & Spencer's Chicken, Bacon & Sweetcorn Pasta Salad comes with 2.58g of salt.