Pass the Salt

Salt is one of those things that almost no one can pass on.  It adds flavor, enhances texture, and offsets other spices.  Most of us probably think of salt  as the white stuff in the shaker on the dinner table.  However, what most of us don’t realize is that salt is in so many more places than just the little amount we sprinkle on our foods at dinner time. 

Salt, or sodium chloride as referred to by scientists, has been a dietary component for thousands of years.  Salt was so important that it even served as currency during various times throughout history.  Wars have been caused, and lives lost over the all too important salt trade. 

Nowadays, only 5% of the earth’s salt production ends up in our diets.  The remaining percentage is used by chemical plants for various industrial purposes.  That being said, the average person will consume up to 28,000 pounds of salt in their lifetime.  The goal is to cut that number down by about 50-75%.

While many people dump the salt shaker at dinner, that is often not enough.  You see, salt is hidden in so many foods that we consume on a daily basis.  Many of our favorite processed foods including canned soups, crackers, and pizzas are full of salt.  The situation is serious as many people consume 3 or 4 times the recommend intake of salt each day (recommended intake is 500-1000 mg).  Sadly most of these people don’t even realize they are eating so much salt.

Salt can be sneaky.  It is found in products you wouldn’t even suspect.  Think cereal, snack puddings, and hot chocolate.  One little pork sausage has more sodium than you need for an entire day!  A cup of low-fat cottage cheese has almost 1,000 mg of salt.  Don’t even mention fast food….a typical fast food burger which uses monosodium glutamate as a flavor enhancer contains over 800 mg of sodium in the 4 oz. burger alone.  Add a bun, sauces, and fries, and you are looking at several times the daily recommended allowance. 

What are the consequences you ask?  A diet high in sodium will lead to chronically elevated blood pressure, which in turn leads to conditions such as heart attack, stroke, and renal impairment.  Ever heard of high-blood pressure being referred to as the “silent killer“?  Well, think of salt as the one who’s arming this silent killer with the weapons necessary to do his dirty deeds. 

To avoid sodium…

  • Use less salt when cooking.  Try using fresh lemon juice in place. 
  • Chose fresh foods whenever possible. 
  • Do not eat fast food, period. 
  • Chose “low sodium products”.  These items contain 140 mg of sodium or less per serving.  “Very low sodium” products contain 35 mg or less per serving. 
  • Try keeping shakers of pepper, curry, or cumin at the table in place of salt.
  • Not all veggies are low in sodium.  Watch out for celery, beets, carrots, spinach, frozen peas, tomato juice, and frozen lima beans.  If you want to really cut back on sodium, opt for any color peppers, green onions, cauliflower, cabbage, or broccoli instead.

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