A lengthy piece by Michael Moss of the New York Times this weekend, covers the decades long history of salt wars. The bottom line:
The salt industry is working overtly and behind the scenes to fend off public-health attacks on salt, using a shifting set of tactics that have defeated similar efforts for 30 years. Read more at the NYTimes…
Not surprising. Despite this, many food processors are trying to reduce the sodium content of their products in the past few years. Campbell’s is removing 20-25% of the salt from its canned soups. Frito-Lay is spending millions trying to create a new salt crystal with less sodium.
The biggest fear of the food industry is that salt will become regulated. This would mean warning labels on products high in sodium such as deli meats, soups, prepared meals, and canned foods. By taking preemptive measures, the companies hope to fend off government pressure.
It’s not simple to remove salt, because it has many other functions aside from flavor. It behaves as a preservative and it improves product texture and mouth feel.
What you need to know:
Salt is an essential nutrient for our bodies. However, when consumed in excess, the health benefits give way to detriments. Mounting evidence in the last 30 years has shown a clear connection between increased sodium consumption and hypertension. Cutting salt substantially from the American diet can prevent in 150,000 deaths annually.
Healthy adults should consume no more than 2300 mg of sodium a day, or about 1 tablespoon TEASPOON of salt. Many people need to consume much less, only 1500 mg. So when we hear that the national average is more than twice that, it’s clear we have a problem.
Most salt in the modern diet comes from processed foods. Only 20-25% is from home cooking or the salt shaker. The easiest way to add flavor to a product with cheap basic ingredients is to pump it up with salt. But using more expensive herbs and spices
If you can’t wait for the food industry to get rid of excess salt, start cooking more at home. Add salt only when the dish is almost ready because as it cooks, the liquids are reduced and the flavors become more pronounced. Using herbs and spices, you can still have very flavorful foods.
Salt is an acquired taste and you can calibrate your preference level over the course of a few weeks to months. In fact, many people who re-adjusted their taste buds, find it hard to enjoy canned products or overly salted dished served in restaurants.
What to do at the supermarket:
Don’t forget to look at the sodium count on products’ nutrition facts panel. Values over 600mg per serving are extremely high. In products such as breads, cereals, and cookies, anything over 150-200mg is too high.