Cut salt by half, says American Heart Association

15 01 2011

 So says a recent newspaper headline; and we’ve been down this road before. In fact, I am still very often asked, “how do I reduce my salt intake” by patients, the health conscious and the public in general; especially as they watch me season the food as I prepare it. They wonder aloud about a cardiologist who adds salt to food as he cooks it. Doesn’t less salt mean:

  • No added salt when I cook?
  • No added salt to my food before I eat?
  • I have to use only “salt substitutes”?

The short answer is a definitive “no,” to all of the above. As a brief refresher, what we mean when we use the term “salt” in the vernacular is the amount of sodium we consume. And we currently consume a lot, over 3,000mg per day. However, over 75% of the sodium we consume comes from prepackaged, prepared and processed foodstuffs. It is hidden in monosodium glutamate and other flavor enhancers, in sodium benzoate and other preservatives, in diet sodas and energy drinks to bacon and meals, ready to eat (MREs). So how do we combat the ubiquitous menace? If we follow our Grassroots Gourmet Threefold Path of the Be’s numbers 1 and 2 we are spot on with a winning game plan.

  1. Be Aware and Avoid the Junk Food/ Fast Food Siren: This collection of heavily processed offerings waiting to be assembled is a huge source of sodium. Simply avoiding these often calorie rich, nutrient poor offerings will dramatically reduce your sodium intake.
  2. Be Fresh-But Don’t Adulterate: If you’re not purchasing your meals already assembled, then obviously you have to prepare it. But to successfully avoid the temptation to grab something quick, easy and pre-done only to buy something premade you heat in a microwave is to slide from the frying pan into the fire. Shelf life is enhanced by the use of preservatives, and these are a huge source of sodium containing compounds. Fresh food tastes great because it is fresh and doesn’t require artificial flavors or boosters-both sources of unwanted sodium. When you shop for choices, don’t be lulled into falling for the promises of highly adulterous choices. Stick to just being Fresh.

If you season the food appropriately as you prepare it, it should not require any additional table salt prior to eating it. That’s about an additional 5% daily sodium reduction. The amount we ingest daily from salt used to season the food as we cook it is only around 6%. Salt added at the table and consumed in the prepared, packaged and processed choices is over 80% of our daily sodium intake. Avoid prepackaged, fast food options; season your food (so it remains delicious) as you prepare it, don’t add salt at the table and start with fresh unadulterated product and you can easily cut your sodium consumption by almost half-without suffering any loss of flavors. Now that’s something worth its weight in salt.



3 responses

15 01 2011
Jen Fletcher

A few years ago when I made the shift to mostly only eating fresh home made food without any salt in the cooking I observed 2 things;
1) I started getting headaches from becoming hyposaline and had to start adding a little salt to my food especially in the summer to correct this – on my doctor’s instructions- and
2) My taste buds woke up and things tasted so much better!

16 01 2011

I saw you answer this on one of your videos and was so relieved by your answer and your common sense approach. 🙂

16 01 2011
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