Monday, June 15, 2009

Are you too salty?

After attending the CSTE annual conference and hearing a plenary on reducing sodium levels in our foods, it got me thinking... how much sodium is actually in my diet? I think I eat relatively normal foods with the occasional processed foods. I always choose the low-sodium or sodium-free soups from the grocery store but is that enough of an effort?

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal in April, nearly 70% of the US population is hypertensive and should follow a stricter guideline of 1,500 mgs a day. You can cut your risk of hypertension by lowering your salt intake early on in life. So, why is it so difficult for Americans to regulate their sodium levels? Because Americans eat enormous amounts of processed foods and restaurant meals. We don't cook at home anymore as a nation (and in fact, neither do I) and this is resulting in higher blood pressures and expanding waist lines.

What suprised me about the article is that even raw chicken is enhanced with salt water to make it plumper and heavier ($$ cha ching!) AND that bakery goods and breakfast bars have higher sodium levels than you would expect.

"Even low-sodium labels have different meanings: "Sodium free" means less than 5 mg per serving; "very low" has less than 35 mg; "low" is less than 140. "Reduced sodium" just means that it's down 25% from what an earlier formulation was -- but could still be high in sodium, just like "No added salt" doesn't mean salt free."

What to do? You can ask restaurants to use less salt when you order, experiment with natural herbs and spices, use half the salt the recipe calls for and just get used to consuming less salt. Actually, those are all REALLY EASY things to do.

"It may take a while to get accustomed to less salt, but once your tastes adjust, you may not want to go back. Commissioner Frieden likens reducing salt to switching from whole milk to skim milk. "If you go back, whole milk tastes like heavy cream," he says."

I'm in favor for people taking ownership of their diet. Not enough people are 'active eaters' and really consider what they are eating before they buy or eat it. People with diabetes have had to monitor their diets for years. But I argue (and the article does too) that we ALL need to monitor our intake of sodium, sugar and other minerals and vitamins. If our nation is going to collectively reduce our belt size, we need to be mindful of what we put in our mouths. Perhaps reducing salt is the first step to putting the consumer back in control of their diets.

1 comment:

  1. it's always interesting to look at the converse of situations. If we know that certain foods are bad for us, trans fats, sodium, poison, there are steps to take to lawfully alter the prescriptions. However, even more difficult than that is enforcing or perhaps, gently pushing consumers to acquire necessary vitamins / supplements.

    Granted, this could be considered over the boundary of governmental jurisdiction, but it just seems to me that we could do a better job of promoting healthy and nutritious foods.

    Parents of newborns in Canada get a stipend or allowance to spend on nutritious foods for their children....