I was shopping with my husband in the “healthy” grocery store food section. Trying to be helpful, Gene drew my attention to delicious looking items that were either too high in sugar, fat, or salt. Even non-GMO, organic, foods can be overloaded with those three tasty delights. I finally told him, “If it looks tasty, I can’t have it. If it’s yucky, I can have all I want!”
So let’s talk about salt, my favorite ingredient. I easily pass up cakes and cookies, but you will take my salted popcorn out of my hand at your own risk. I subscribe to Nutrition Action Health Letter, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and appreciate that it is brief —current issue only 16 pages. I read the entire thing while I ate lunch. This issue was titled “Salt Wars.”
Thanks a bunch.
The Salt Wars by Michael Jacobson
Nutrition Action’s Bonnie Liebman interviewed Michael Jascobson, whose book Salt Wars, the Battle Over the Biggest Killer in the American Diet, hit the shelves this October. He is co-founder of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which publishes this newsletter. Jacobson is a leading voice on improving public nutrition. Here are a few highlights from Liebman’s article.
We know excess salt (sodium) causes high blood pressure, but it also threatens other body systems. It affects kidneys, vision, and even memory. (Now where is that saltshaker? I put it down a minute ago.)
I loved Jacobson’s remarks about medications for high blood pressure. They echo much of what I write. Diet has a great influence on controlling blood pressure, and if you can reduce it by eating a healthy diet, all the better.
According to Jacobson, the average woman eats 3,000 mg of salt per day, and a man 4,000 mg.
I think one silver lining (if there is one) of this horrid pandemic, is that we Americans have been cooking at home more. Restaurant food tastes so darn good because it is full of sodium — and other tasty ingredients I really don’t want to know about. Besides restaurant food, cold cuts, bacon, frozen dinners, and pizza come with a load of salt. However, I did not know bread is a culprit too.
“Nobody thinks bread tastes salty, but at Panera, the piece of baguette that comes on the side has nearly six times as much sodium as the chips,” Jacobson said.
Salt, Sugar, Fat – How the food Giants Hooked us
In Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss (Random House ©2013), he writes how the food industry follows public preferences. When low fat was all the rage, they lowered the fat content of their food, but raised the salt and/or sugar. Lower the sugar? Raise the salt and fat.
The food industry uses tasters to help them find the sweet spot where a consumer wants to eat more and more. Like you can’t eat just one potato chip. He tasted bread, baked without salt, in a food manufacturer’s test kitchen.
“We ate. We gagged. The bread tasted like tin. Without salt, it didn’t even look like the puffy, light bread you buy in the grocery store.”
Industry can substitute sodium chloride with potassium chloride, but it will cost the consumer more. Also, using added chemicals to combat some flavor problems that come with the potassium, kind of defeats health goals. But if you need to lower sodium intake, potassium chloride products are available.
There is Hope
John and Ocean Robbins, of Food Revolution fame, repeatedly assure people that our taste-buds renew every two weeks. They maintain if a person eliminates all salt (not only from the saltshaker, but the sodium included in prepared and processed foods) for only two weeks, those new taste-buds will delight in the natural flavor of foods. Apparently, one will taste flavors in foods that were previously hidden by too much salt. The salt we once added to our food would make our food taste too salty now.
I must admit I have not taken them up on their theory—yet. When/if I do, I’ll let you know how it works out. Or you let me know how it went. First one to do it wins a salt-free bowl of popcorn. (I heard one can substitute nutritional yeast for salt. Now to figure out how to make it stick to the kernels.)
Enjoyed this article. Very interesting.
I’m glad you liked it.
I have read Sugar, Salt, Fat and found it hard to put down. The Jacobson article was also very well written. I cook nearly all of my own meals with no added salt and have run into the problem of my blood pressure going too low. So from time to time, about once a week, I have eat a salty snack to keep my blood pressure up in the normal range. LOL!
You raise a good point about blood pressure, Eric. People who eat a whole food plant based diet often do experience their blood pressure dropping to normal. That’s why someone should monitor their blood pressure and keep their doctor informed. If they are on high blood pressure medication, without that monitoring, their pressure could fall too low, as yours did. Keep you doc in the loop so you can safely reduce or eliminate medications. By the way, my heart bleeds for you eating a salty snack once a week. Hah!
I happen to be more of a sweet-a-holic, not that I ever pass up pizza or popcorn! Usually I try to avoid salt, due to my high blood pressure, although the news about Panera’s baguettes hit me hard!
I am trying to decrease my dependence on sugar and especially sugar substitutes. Every time I apply two Sweet-N-Lows to my coffee my son Rich reminds me “That’s not good for you!” He’s right; I actually have decreased my use. No more diet colas cross my lips, but flavored seltzers are creeping on to my grocery lists. Any advice?
If recall, we nailed quite a few pizzas in our day! I hear you. It’s hard to eliminate something entirely, so we look to substitutes. Actually, I DO have some advice. Stevia (a sweet natural plant – organic would be best) has no calories AND is ten times sweeter than sugar – so you only need a little bit. Others sweeten their beverages with a bit of date syrup, and maple syrup is used in many recipes in place of sugar. I make mean blueberry oatmeal muffins using only – uncooked rolled oats soaked in soy or almond milk overnight, cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup, baking powder, beaten egg, and blueberries on top. It’s sweet and actually, pretty much like having an oatmeal breakfast, so no guilt.
When my family went low sodium-very low sodium 1500mg/day, when my father was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, how bland everything tasted. But, we bumped up the spices and herb usage in every day dishes and they made everything taste better. I don’t add much of any salt-a pinch if needed, but I do eat full salt bread, and full salt butter. The American Heart Association has a great low sodium cookbook out, and there’s one I bought called The Healthy Heart Cookbook by Joseph Piscatella, a gentleman who at the age of 32, needed bypass surgery and had severe coronary disease. It’s a great cookbook with a lot of healthy recipes I highly recommend. If you want to borrow it sometime, let me know.
Thank you, Pat for such great information and suggestions.