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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Salt Addiction

TIME magazine last week had a great article about America's addiction to salt and how the government has recently become involved in the crusade to lower US salt consumption (and thereby, hopefully, reduce hypertension, heart attacks, and strokes). My family does not have this addiction, since nearly everything we eat I prepare from scratch (and I don't like food very salty), and we rarely use the saltshaker to add salt to our meals. Though none of us has high blood pressure (in fact, mine at times is too low), I still found these facts educational and my cooking/eating habits and convictions about the topic strengthened:

"Most Americans consume a good teaspoon and a half of sodium a day--more than double the 1,500 mg our bodies need. This excess salt is raising our blood pressure and with it our risk of heart attack and stroke--events that kill about 800,000 Americans a year.

"...Our saltshakers are responsible for just 11% of the sodium we consume. The rest is added before your food reaches the table, whether it's a packaged TV dinner or a meal at your favorite restaurant... It's basically cocaine for the palate... That's why restaurant cooks in particular use it in quantities that would make most customers' jaws drop. They grab fistfuls of it to cover steaks and roasts. They put a big pinch in a salad. It's everywhere."
  • Denny's country-fried-steak dinner has more than 3,600 mg of sodium, roughly the equivalent of 24 strips of bacon.
  • Red Lobster's Admiral's Feast has 4,400 mg of sodium--which is almost 2 tsp and 3X the adequate amount adults need daily.
  • A Hebrew National jumbo hot dog contains more than 1/3 the recommended daily maximum of 2,300 mg.
  • Just 6 Rold Gold big stick pretzels contains 1/2 the maximum.
And, get this:
  • A single serving of Raisin Bran has 350 mg--or 1/6 the recommended daily max.
(From May 16, 2010 TIME magazine, pp. 43-44.)

Knowledge is power...if it changes behavior.


Mommy Bee said...

Definitely prepared foods have ridiculous amounts of salt (along with lots of other garbage). However, one thing I've found is that salt gets a bad's not evil really. I think of Christ's parable about being the salt of the earth, and about how salt is important and necessary... We don't need a ton (and many of us do get too much), but we DO need SOME, and it truly does make food 'savory.' So I avoid prepackaged foods for lots of reasons--not just salt. I rarely cook with salt (it's necessary in bread, and I usually use some in soups so that it can blend with the other flavors), but we always have a shaker on the table, and we all use it as much as we like. None of us have blood pressure problems--even my husband who is overweight and a 'prime candidate' for high BP actually has a very good BP.

If you recall my blog post last year about prenatal nutrition, salt is actually really important for pregnant women (who often try to limit it for fear of toxemia, which it actually doesn't cause, but that's a whole other issue...). Salt is a key building block for blood production (since blood, like all our other bodily fluids, is salty). In pregnancy of course a woman's blood volume increases by 50%, so she NEEDS extra salt!

Mommy Bee said...

Oh, I also have to question recommended daily allowances--I'd really like to know who comes up with them and what they're based on. I've seen politics get into the food pyramid, and I'm not convinced that they're not in DRAs too.
In my opinion it's an analogous situation to when they tested my thyroid function and said my numbers were "normal." Well that's nice, but I've got symptoms that point toward adrenal/thyroid issues, + a family history of both...and since they've only been testing this for the last 50ish years (less?) then their entire basis for "normal" has been functioning in a nutrient-deprived/polluted who is to say that their "normal" is actually the same thing as "healthy"???
Back to DRA--who is to say that their recommendations are actually appropriate? Or applicable to all people?

Katrina said...

Right. I didn't intend to imply that none of us needs any salt at all because I know that's not true. But the crux of the article (and therefore of my post) is addressing America's EXCESS consumption of salt.

Katrina said...

Regarding your second comment, I agree that we shouldn't accept all such guidelines point blank. Especially since we all have such different body types, life styles, and diets. I suppose they ARE just a general "guideline," something to modify and work around. Of course, most people don't go to all the effort you and I do to figure out what's best for ourselves individually, so doctors/nutritionists have to have SOMETHING to tell people. (But I don't personally trust a lot of what nutritionists tell me.)


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