Who is Salt?

Perhaps it’s best that one of the action flicks of the summer 2010 would be entitled “Salt”.  Although the film starring Angelina Jolie has little to nothing to do with nutrition, the connotation is valid as the concerns over sodium in our American diet has the recurring headline theme in many media pieces including today’s Palm Beach Post article in the Accent section “Is Salt At Fault”.  You can find Ms. Staci Sturrock’s report online at http://www.palmbeachpost.com/health/why-salt-in-your-diet-could-be-the-783042.html

It was probably about five years ago that I really started to pay attention to the salt buzz.  I admit I scoffed at the idea of cutting down my salt intake as I am a professed lover of salty things divine such as Greek feta, Kalamata olives, other tangy cheeses, chips and the list goes on.  

Being a busy twenty-something with nothing but career-climbing and a young husband in mind, I figured that we were healthy and didn’t need to worry about salt unless we were diagnosed with something that prescribed omission of the condiment.  How very ignorant I was, the proverbial blissful existence was what I was leading.

It wasn’t until we had family that was facing health issues that demanded attention, including cutting the salt, that we finally started to examine the idea more closely.  If you get to read Ms. Sturrock’s piece, you may learn for the first time that many of our processed foods already include an incredible amount of salt and you may not recognize it in the ingredients listed.

My daily dinner menu for my family now focuses on trying to put together meals that come from the freshest possible items.  By cutting out the processed foods I have more control over just how much seasoning is used, including salt.  In the process I’ve learned some fun tricks, like how lemon or lime can help season certain vegetables like artichokes and asparagus, thus reducing the reliance on salt.

Ms. Sturrock’s article does a good job of stating statistics sourced from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as polling from health specialists.  She reports that the FDA is “considering a plan to place restrictions on the amount of salt that manufacturers are allowed to add to processed foods.”  Toward the end of Ms. Sturrock’s piece, Dr. Andy Larson of South Florida’s JFK Medical Center brings up another valid concern about our diet saying ” ‘are we sure that we want to single out salt when the real problem is the junk calories in the food — the processed flours and unnecessary vegetable oils that have the calories.?’ ”

My one political comment concerning Ms. Sturrock’s report would be that I’m not so sure that I support government mandates on what food producers put out on the consumer market.  As a proponent of personal responsibility, I truly believe if Americans en masse start shopping for fresher or low-sodium alternatives, companies will take notice and react accordingly to supply the demand of the consumers.  More government intervention means more tax dollars out the door and so I think we are adults that can be responsible for the choice of getting the white-caked french fries or finding another choice of potato preparation.

My husband and I have noticed how the overall reduction of salt in our diet has benefited us health-wise.  Of course we’re not perfect and there are times that we probably far exceed the daily recommended 2300 mg (a teaspoon size) of sodium–especially when eating out at a restaurant or the ever-forbidden fast-food joint such as McDonald’s (you know that’s not fairy dust on the fries).

It turns out that if you can try to weed out processed foods in your daily diet, you’ll end up tackling other nutrition pitfalls.  I’m not suggesting you go for the “raw diet” that has become quite the fad in some circles, but there are ways you can incorporate more simple ingredients.  For example, when you make pasta dinners, why not reach for a can or jar of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce sans salt and then add your own Italian flare: it can be fresh or dried herbs of your own choice and perhaps just a pinch of sea salt and sugar, voila spaghetti sauce a la your creation!

Who is Salt? I still want to watch the Jolie movie, hopefully the subliminal effect of its title will help us remember to pay a little more mind to sodium’s place in our diets so that we don’t have to halt the salt completely when we hit our sixties or seventies.

Note: For those already above the aforementioned age-group, I hope you’re mitigating your diet as needed, for more information you can check our government’s guidelines: www.fda.gov

R.V.S.B.

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