We tend to think of soup as a healthy, comforting food, but the high levels of hidden salt it contains present a very real risk to our health.
High levels of salt are linked to high blood pressure, and increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. There is growing evidence that it is linked to osteoporosis and kidney disease, and recent research indicates that it could also be a contributory factor to developing stomach cancer.
The recommended daily dose of salt for an adult should not exceed 6g according to The Food Standard Agency, though our bodies actually need much less than this.
Soup, often chosen as a healthy option for a light meal, or snack, was found in 99 per cent of the 575 ready made soups analysed in a recent survey by CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health), to contain more salt per portion than a bag of crisps. Some of the products, in particular those from high street chains, contained more than the recommended daily dose. EAT for example, a family run company in London who claim to be dedicated to serving quality food, was found to have ten products that fell into this category. Many more contained levels reaching over half the recommended daily intake. Café Nero’s organic carrot and coriander soup might well appeal to those hoping to maximize the nutritional value of their take-away lunch, but at 3.6g per regular sized portion it fell far short of the mark.
Amongst the supermarket brands New Covent Garden Soup (scotch broth flavour) had the highest levels, with Batchelor’s and Heinz not too far behind.
On the whole freshly made soups with a vegetable base tend to contain less salt than creamy tinned soups that might also have bacon or ham among their ingredients, though even some of those considered to be healthier brands contained more than a third of the daily dose.
On the positive side overall levels had dropped by seventeen per cent since the last survey by CASH in 2007. Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of CASH said that ‘The majority of the food industry is slowly taking out salt from food.’ He said that some companies hadn’t gone far enough, and that some simply weren’t co-operating.
Given that this recent survey only analysed soup, it is obvious that in combination with other foods, many of which - often surprisingly, and quite unnecessarily - contain hidden salt, we need to take more responsibility for checking our salt intake and attempting to cut down on it. Carefully reading food labels as well as making an effort to prepare more of our own meals will help, but with our health at such great risk, it begs the question as to why the government doesn’t resort to legislation to deal with the issue!