Healthy living

Traditional pie and mash laden with salt

pie and mash Saltier than crisps

The traditional pie and mash meals favoured by pubs across the country contain more than a day's recommended amount of salt, research has found.

The worst offenders contain the same amount of salt as 15 packets of crisps.

Too much dietary salt increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart and kidney disease.

For good health, adults are supposed to eat no more than 6g of salt a day, but men are currently consuming around 10g, which works out at around 365 pints of salt in a lifetime.

Health campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) analysed the salt content of 526 pie, mash and gravy products from supermarkets, large chain pubs, cafe's and takeaways - all foods popular with men.

A Wetherspoon's chicken and mushroom pie with chips or mash, gravy and peas contains 7.5g of salt, equivalent to the salt content of 15 packets of crisps or 125 per cent of the daily recommended amount.

Mash and gravy alone can almost double the salt content of a meal. Punch Taverns' lamb & mint pie contains 3.5g of salt, but the mash and gravy adds an additional 3g of salt to the meal. Similarly, the same chain's steak and ale pie with mash, veg and gravy contains 6.3g of salt.

And the salt content of a Hungry Horse beef and ale pie with mash, peas and gravy comes in at around 6.18g.

Although supermarket pies generally contained less salt then their pub counterparts, many were still too salty. And, when it came to salt content, the more expensive options were not necessarily the healthiest.

A Waitrose steak, mushroom and red wine pie was the worst offender in the survey with 1.0g of salt per 100g, or 2.69g of salt per 270g portion, more than three times as much as is found in the least salty products.

The same supermarket's aberdeen angus steak and ale topcrust pie might have a better quality of beef, but contains a similar amount of salt at 2.69g per 300g portion.

Similarly, Marks & Spencer Gastro Pub aberdeen angus steak and stilton pie made with Tuxford and Tebutt stilton has 2.68g salt per 260g portion.

Healthier options includes ASDA’s Chosen by You creamy chicken and mushroom puff pastry pie with 0.3g of salt per 100g, or 0.5g per 150g portion, and Sainsbury's Taste The Difference beef steak pie with shortcrust pastry which has 0.28g salt per 100g, or 0.55g per 200g portion.

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at The Wolfson Institute and chairman of CASH, said: “With the food industry still putting so much salt in men's favourite foods, it is no wonder men are at risk of serious health problems such as stroke and heart attacks, the commonest causes of death and disability in the UK.

“Cutting men's salt intake from the current 10g a day to the recommended maximum of 6g a day could reduce their risk of having a stroke by up to 20 per cent and of having a heart attack by up to 12 per cent."

Tracy Parker, a heart health dietitian for the British Heart Foundation, said: “Pie and mash is great comfort food but it’s easy to forget it can come packed with salt. This is bad news for our hearts because too much salt can raise our blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

“If you’re in the supermarket, look out for traffic light coloured food labels as they provide at-a-glance information on salt content. While if you’re in the pub, takeaway or cafe and can’t find this information, making simple changes such as skipping the gravy, avoiding using the salt cellar and choosing more vegetables can also make a big difference to the amount of salt we eat without missing out on our favourite foods.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, more than twice as many men die prematurely of heart disease, heart failure and stroke as compared to women.

This article was published on Thu 17 March 2011

Image © Joe Gough -

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