Keep the Salt, Dump the Junk

2 03 2010


As we described, sodium plays a role in maintaining your blood volume. An indirect measure (and not necessarily a great measure at that) of that volume is your blood pressure. In simple terms, the thought is that because sodium increases your volume, that affects (increases) your blood pressure and thus reducing sodium would reduce your blood pressure. This would help people with high blood pressure, or hypertension. In fact, there is good medical evidence that lowering sodium intake does in fact lower blood pressure in both people with and without hypertension.

Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of those with hypertension demonstrate sodium sensitive hypertension. This means that only a small fraction of those with high blood pressure will see it lower with a reduction in sodium intake. In terms of sodium being a contributor to increased cardiovascular risks and mortality, with respect to looking at populations, there is not a clearly defined risk (some studies show risk while others do not). The current thought is that sodium has an effect on the cardiovascular system which goes beyond simply looking at blood pressure and that too much sodium could have detrimental effects.

This is important as the per capita use of salt in the United States has increased by approximately 55% from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. In a parallel process, studies have shown that levels of potassium, magnesium and calcium are lower than desired. This likely reflects the increased consumption of processed foods over their unprocessed natural counterparts. The daily recommended intake of salt is less than 3,000 mg or about 1 ½ teaspoons.

So should we eliminate salt from our cooking? No seasoning as we cook? Healthy yet bland meals?

The Chef in me cries out “No No No!”

The Physician in me agrees.

Research has looked at the sources of sodium in the US diet. Roughly 77% of sodium intake is from processed and prepared foods. Only about 5% comes from what is added to prepare a tasty, well seasoned meal during preparation. In addition, if your meal is well seasoned as it is prepared it should not require any additional table top salt application. This reduces another 6% (6% of the total salt intake is added during eating). The remaining 12% is found to occur naturally. The take home message here; 87% of all sodium intake can be accounted for by adding salt at the table and consuming prepared and processed food.

So I say season your food as you cook. The key here is to cook more fresh food and reduce the processed crap-which includes high sodium prepared condiments, many salad dressings, prepared meats/meals and things like energy drinks/sodas.

So yes, dear Elizabeth, you can have the oven roasted rosemary fingerling potatoes with some salt!



6 responses

3 03 2010
Chef E

Oh I just read my name! I do not eat any canned foods, salt when I cook, and we do not own salt shakers on the table. I have become so sensitive, taste buds, I can detect over saltiness with the first touch of the tongue when we eat out, so I have totally changed my eating habits since Ane was born with her heart condition. Turns out mine is inherited, so even the skinny people in my family take meds for HB.

Since I can remember my body blows up with water retention, and I drink gallons of water to flush, no sodas, nothing, water and wine 🙂 I am planning on playing with my salt and making those potatoes with some pork tonight! Will post… Just the sight of salt sends me reeling, lol! I am a good patient Doc!

3 03 2010

I know you are-sounds like you are in that minority of people who actually have salt sensitive hypertension. By avoiding the processed stuff as you do, you A-OK in my book!
Wish all my patients were like you!

3 03 2010

well said more fresh herbs and spices and homemade food

3 03 2010

Thanks Rebecca,
Did I pass the RD screen?-your expertise always makes me nervous!

3 03 2010

arent canned biscuits and croissants loaded with salt? Same for store made ready to eat foods?

3 03 2010

Spot-on DB,
The prepared foods and ready to eat foods are often loaded with sodium. The sodium in these preparations is often delevered not as table salt (sodium chloride) but in the preservatives used to extend the shelf life of the product.

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