There’s a war going on now in the food/health space. In the last few years, excess salt consumption has been identified by leading health organizations as a contributor to various diseases including hypertension, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, stomach cancer, and osteoporosis. The Economist called salt the new trans-fat.
Amid this crisis, in the last 6 months, the Salt Institute in the US and the European Salt Association have mounted a counter attack, stating that salt in fact is healthy and that lowering the maximum daily amount consumed can produce negative results. The Salt groups have received the backing of the food industry, which has been trying unsuccessfully to reduce sodium levels in foods without affecting the flavor.
The American Heart Association (AHA) is now stepping in with a strongly worded submission to the FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Services, an arm of the USDA) stating that the industry information is misleading and not based on scientific evidence. The AHA is also recommending a reduction in the daily overall sodium consumption from 2300 mg to 1500mg.
The average American consumes 3800mg today!!!
Here then, are a few ways in which you can reduce your sodium/salt intake:
1. Reduce fast food consumption. Just 2 slices of pizza or a single patty cheeseburger carry over a 1000mg of sodium, half a day’s recommended intake. Eat less fast food.
2. Challenge the Chef. Even at fine dining establishments, salt is used in significant amounts. (Butter too). However, most chefs will omit salt when requested by you. You can always add salt form the shaker on the table.
3. Read the Label. Sodium content appears on food labels on packaged foods. And may products have sodium though they don’t tase salty (bread and cereal, for example). Watch out for especially salty foods including anchovies, pickles, soy sauce, canned soup, luncheon meats, salad dressings, hot dogs, tomato juice, and ketchup. Some brands have lower sodium options. At the end of the day make sure your consumption level is less than 2300mg.
4. Salternatives. When cooking, try to use different spices and herbs to flavor the dish instead of salt. Fresh choices include Italian parsley, ginger, garlic, basil, chives, and lemon grass. Try dried spices such as chili, paprika, cumin, turmeric.
5. Choose frozen, not canned. Salt and Freezers are both “preservers”, keeping foods from spoiling. Choose frozen over canned veggies because they don’t need the salt to protect the food. As a bonus, flash frozen veggies have a higher level of nutrient content. If you do use canned vegetables, try rinsing them to get some of the salt out.
6. Delay Salting. When cooking, add salt just before serving, and in a smaller amount than called for in the recipe. Each diner can then add salt to taste.
7. Cut down on salty junk foods. A no brainer. Potato chips are brutal – a serving of 12 chips (as if) has 340mg of sodium, about 15% of the recommended daily intake.
8. Watch the sauce. Sauces and gravies add tons of sodium to your meal. Trim down the amount you add to your salad, sushi, and sub.
9. Salt detox. Train your taste buds to enjoy less salty foods. Gradually reduce the amount of salt you sprinkle over foods. After several weeks, your salt comfort zone will be lower. (By the way, you can do the same with sugar in your coffee.)
What do you do to reduce the salt in your diet?