Our relationship with salt is complicated. In small doses, it helps regulate vital processes like hydration levels and blood pressure. But a lot of food has more salt than we think it does – and then there's our nation's long-standing love of chippies and fast food on top of that.
According to the Food Standards Scotland, eight out of 10 men and seven out of 10 women consume too much salt (the recommended limit for anyone aged 11 and over is six grams per day). Consuming too much salt has been linked to Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and strokes. There's no escaping the conclusion that eating less of it would be a good thing. Low-sodium table salt is a good solution for many, but the healthiest substitutes may already be in your kitchen cupboards.
Though garlic is more popular in British kitchens than ever, it is still overlooked as a substitute for salt. Not only does it add a sharp and immediately striking flavour to any dish, but it's really good for you – it contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and is frequently linked to the prevention of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and other serious illnesses.
Chilli isn't for everyone. But for those who enjoy their food hot and spicy, chillies have the added benefit of reducing cravings for salty, fatty and sugary foods, according to a US study. The average chilli contains up to seven times as much vitamin C as an orange, and consumption of chillies has been linked to the reduction of inflammation and the relief of aches, pains and other minor ailments. It makes a great alternative to salt for chips, and, like garlic, it can easily be found in powdered form.
Thyme is already a popular staple of many kitchens – it has a punchy but not overpowering flavour that adds depth to meat, fish, stews, casseroles, curries and many other dinnertime favourites. Its flexibility is a great asset, and there's almost nothing that you can't try it with. Its health benefits are considerable, too. It has been linked to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, boosting the immune system, and more strangely, treating acne.
Pepper often follows salt, but could it replace it? For many, it already has. Pepper, like chilli, has a sharp, bold flavour – you'd be surprised at how much it livens up foods that are often just salted, such as chips. Unlike salt, however, it's much better for you. Consuming black pepper triggers an increase in the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which aids digestion. Pepper is also rich with manganese, a mineral that helps bones stay healthy and helps regulate other important bodily functions.
Ginger's usefulness as a salt substitute is limited compared to its peers on this list, but it can still have spectacular results. It's one of the few spices that you could use for both dinner and dessert – it's as delicious on ice cream as it is on a fresh salad. In soups, stir fries, curries and cuts of meat like pork and chicken, ginger adds a delicious zest and sweetness. Ginger is a great digestive aid, and can also be a great way to get rid of coughs and colds.