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The hidden health dangers in your Chinese takeaway

Some of our favourite Saturday night dinners contain five times more salt than a Big Mac,campaigners claim. Liz Connor learns more

We all know that takeaways aren't the healthiest of foods, but many of us are completely unaware of how bad they actually are.

Some takeaway meals can push you over your recommended daily maximum amount of salt and fat, which can lead to a variety of health problems later in life.

Campaign group Action on Salt ( has warned that the public should be particularly mindful when purchasing Chinese meals from restaurants and supermarkets, claiming that many should carry health warnings because they're often high in salt.

Researchers studied more than 150 popular Chinese dishes and found that some contained five times more salt than a Big Mac, and many contained well over an adult's recommended 6g daily allowance of salt.

Not only does eating too much salt raise your blood pressure, but it also puts you at risk of degenerative health conditions including heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Public Health England has been encouraging the food industry to cut salt levels and, in a bid to combat the issue, the Government has set salt reduction targets for food producers.

However, these targets will not be implemented at small takeaways across the country, so it's important to be aware of how much salt your Saturday night tea-time treat might contain. Here are three of the worst offenders to avoid next time you are ordering in:

1. Beef in black bean sauce

Action on Salt's analysis of six Chinese takeaway meals bought from restaurants in London's Chinatown found that beef in black bean sauce with vegetable noodles was by far the saltiest dish on the menu.

While the group said that there were variations in the salt content from restaurant to restaurant, one of the black bean dishes analysed contained 11.5g of salt - almost double an adult's daily recommended allowance.

2. Egg fried rice

It's a tasty accompaniment to any main dish, but adding egg fried rice to your order could easily tip your daily intake into the red zone. The fried rice dishes that Action on Salt analysed delivered anything from between an extra 2.3kg to 5.3g of salt, on top of the high sodium content lurking in your main meal.

3. Dipping sauces

If you love nothing more than slathering a spring roll in sweet and sour sauce, you might want to look away now. The research found that Chinese dipping sauces were, on average, five times saltier than seawater. The charity added that incorporating sides and sauces to your meal could provide you with nearly 4g salt per person alone.

So, what should you order? Anything that's battered or marked as crispy on the menu means it's deep-fried, so it should be avoided. The NHS advises to watch out for starters such as prawn crackers and spring rolls, because these are generally deep-fried. Sweet and sour pork will be high in fat too.

The advice suggests steamed dishes are the best option, and a stir-fry is also fine because it's usually lower in fat and include vegetables.

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