March 4-10, 2019 Is World Salt Awareness Week
What’s the most common seasoning Americans add to their food? Salt! Our bodies require a certain amount of salt (sodium). But in this country and around the world, average diners consume much more than they should.
Each year, the World Health Organization holds World Salt Awareness Week to raise awareness of the problem, and to help governments and individuals reduce sodium consumption.
Here are questions to ask to become a more “salt-savvy” consumer:
Question #1: Our bodies need sodium, so shouldn’t we be sure to salt our food?
Answer: For most of us, the salt that naturally occurs in food is all we need. Unless we are exercising heavily in a warm climate, chances are good that we don’t need to add extra. For our ancient ancestors, salt was often in short supply, so our species developed a craving for it. However, for modern humans, finding salt is no longer the problem! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nine out of 10 Americans consume more than the recommended amount.
Question #2: My doctor says to cut down on salt to prevent high blood pressure. Is that the only danger?
Answer: High blood pressure (hypertension) is the condition we hear most about when it comes to controlling our salt intake, but it is important to see the bigger picture. High blood pressure in turn contributes to heart and kidney disease, puts us at greater risk for stroke, and is linked with vision loss and some cancers.
Question #3: I cook without salt, and keep the salt shaker off the table—does that ensure that I’m not consuming too much?
Answer: The salt shaker is just the beginning of the story when it comes to excess sodium. Salt is an inexpensive seasoning and preservative, used extensively by food manufactures and restaurants. You might think of salted pretzels or potato chips as being the main culprits, but foods need not taste salty to have an unhealthy amount. Almost all pre-packaged meals, frozen dinners, canned soups and sauces, and even some breakfast cereals and breads contain a generous amount. Deli meats and even fresh chicken can have added salt. So it’s important to read food labels. Fortunately, more and more food manufacturers are offering reduced-sodium alternatives.
Question #4: Won’t my food taste bland without salt?
Answer: People who routinely salt their food often believe food must be salted to be flavorful. However, many other seasonings also enhance flavor. Substitute spices and herbs for the salt in recipes. Try lemon juice on fish and vegetables. Shake on a salt-free seasoning combination. The American Heart Association (AHA) says, “At first, you may miss the taste of salt. Gradually, however, you will start to taste more of the natural flavors of foods.” Once your taste buds adapt, you may find that the processed foods you once liked now taste unpleasantly salty.
Question #5: Is it true that gourmet salts are less harmful, and might even be good for me?
Answer: As we push our shopping cart through the seasonings aisle of the grocery store, we see more and more pretty (and pricey) bottles of “artisan”-type salt products. Gray sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, fleur de sel, smoked salt, and Hawaiian salt are just a few of these. Some even make health claims. However, the AHA reports that the sodium content of all salts is virtually the same. This also holds true for “seasoned salts,” like onion salt or celery salt.
The information in this article is not intended to take the place of your healthcare provider’s advice. Talk to your doctor about your sodium intake.