We’ve posted several times about salt recently, including Nine Tips for Reducing Your Salt Intake. In today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Marion Nestle outlines three strategies food manufacturers adopt to address the issue of excess salt in their products:
Strategy No. 1 is to try to reduce sodium. Manufacturers say they can’t do this easily. Unless products are salty enough – reaching what the industry calls the “bliss point” – people will not buy them.
Strategy No. 2 is to spin the science. The salt industry lobbies hard to convince you that salt raises disease risk in only a small percentage of the population; that even modest reductions in salt intake could be dangerous to health; and that scientists disagree so strongly about the evidence that restrictive advice is unwarranted.
Strategy No. 3 is to pre-empt “eat less” messages by establishing generous criteria for “better-for-you” food choices. Witness the new industry-sponsored Smart Choices.
What you need to know:
The recommended daily intake is 2300mg of sodium (salt is 40% sodium). This is equivalent to a teaspoon. Most Americans consume far more than that, even twice as much. For example, there are more than 4,500 milligrams of sodium in a Dunkin’ Donuts salt bagel. Just two slices of Pizza Hut’s Thin ‘n Crispy Supreme Pizza have 1,460 milligrams.
75% of our salt comes from eating out and from packaged foods, and only a small amount from home cooked meals.
What to do at the supermarket:
Sodium content appears on food nutrition labels, so be sure to check for low values (less than 300mg per serving). Watch out for salt in surprising places such as cookies and breakfast cereals (10% of daily value!). The snack and frozen TV dinner aisles are notoriously salty, although there are new low-sodium products emerging. Look for them. Kosher meat and poultry is usually salted; best to thoroughly rinse at home before cooking. If buying veggies, opt for frozen over canned and save yourself the extra salt. Eating more meals prepared at home is a surefire way to control salt intake.